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Who will head the UN?

Who will succeed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan when he retires in December?

India is the latest contender for the post, having formally endorsed Shashi Tharoor.

Apart from Dr Tharoor, the other official contenders are former UN under secretary general and Sri Lanka's former ambassador to the US Jayantha Dhanapala, 67, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon, 62, and Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, 47. Pakistan is reportedly considering nominating its ambassador to the UK, Maleeha Lodhi.

Shashi Tharoor, India

Dr Tharoor is the UN's under secretary general for communications and public information, and has led the department of public information since January 2001.

Born in London in 1956, he was educated in India and the United States. He has a Ph D in (1978) from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, USA, where he also earned two master's degrees, says his UN biography.

His career with the UN began in 1978 on the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. He headed the UNHCR's office in Singapore (1981-1984) during the peak of the Vietnamese 'boat people' crisis.

He is also the author of eight books and numerous numerous articles, op-eds and literary reviews in a wide range of publications. He is also the recipient of several journalism and literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers Prize.

In January 1998, Dr Tharoor, the father of twin sons, was named by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as a 'Global Leader of Tomorrow'.

But support for him is likely to be diluted with most of South and Southeast Asia endorsing other candidates.

Photograph: Paresh Gandhi

Also See: Will this man be the UN Secretary General?

Also See: Shashi Tharoor, the great Indian hope


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