Reuters reports President Bush expects the next United Nations secretary-general to come from Asia:

"As I understand it, traditionally … regions rotate, and we’re really looking in the Far East right now to be the secretary-general," Bush said in an interview on Monday with print reporters with Russia, Japan, Italy and Germany.

"Asia, yes," he said when asked to clarify his answer, though he refused to be more specific or name names.

"You’ll find that we will work closely with friends and allies to come up with the best candidate, but we won’t be committing publicly," Bush added.

Kofi Annan’s second five-year term as Secretary General expires at the end of the year. Traditionally, the position rotates among geographic regions. Annan, who is from of Ghana, succeeded Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt. Having back to back Africans was rationalized on the basis that Boutros-Ghali only served one term.

In response to questions, President Bush clarified his criteria for a candidate telling the reporters he would not oppose a Muslim for the position:

"The criterion I’m for is somebody who wants to spread liberty and enhance the peace, do difficult things like confront tyranny, worry about the human condition, blow the whistle on human rights violations," he said.

According to Reuters, there are four candidates in the running for the job:

Three have been officially nominated: Deputy Thai Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai; Sri Lankan disarmament specialist and government adviser Jayantha Dhanapala; and Indian novelist Shashi Tharoor, the undersecretary-general for the U.N. Department of Public Information.

Seoul has also announced that South Korea’s foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon, would run for the post though his name has not been formally submitted.

International politics usually results in compromise candidates with lower profiles being chosen Secretary General.

A recent communication [pdf format]to the President of the General Assembly from the President of the Security Council confirms that the first "straw ballot" for selecting the new Secretary General will take place in the second half of July.