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Former Portuguese leader, refugee chief primed to be new UN head

Former Portuguese leader, refugee chief primed to be new UN head

Former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres is primed to be the next United Nations secretary general, diplomats from the U.N. Security Council said Wednesday, after none of its five permanent members chose to block the nomination. 

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Guterres, a 66-year-old former socialist politician and previous head of the U.N.’s refugee agency, is expected to become the ninth secretary general after a formal vote in the General Assembly scheduled for Thursday morning.

He received votes of encouragement from 13 of the 15 member nations, and two votes declining to express an opinion, according to Reuters. None of the member nations voted to oppose him.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha PowerSamantha PowerThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Trump, Cheney trade jabs The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Biden sales pitch heads to Virginia and Louisiana Washington's split with Turkey widens — but it is up to Turkey to heal the rift MORE, confirmed the reports on Twitter on Wednesday.

He will replace Ban Ki-moon, a longtime Korean diplomat, whose 10 years in the position will end on Dec. 31.

Wednesday’s decision was the sixth secret ballot held in the race for U.N. chief.

Guterres had been the favorite in the race, but he faced late opposition from Miroslav Lajcak, the foreign minister of Slovakia, as well as former foreign ministers from Serbia and Bulgaria, Vuk Jeremić and Irina Bokova.

He faced some opposition from Russia, which had argued for an Eastern European to take the helm of the U.N. The United States and Britain had also hoped that a woman would replace Ban as secretary general. Throughout its history, the U.N. has only ever had male secretaries general.

Guterres was the socialist prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, during which he briefly served as head of the European Council. From 2005 to 2015, he served as the U.N.'s high commissioner for refugees.

If confirmed by the full U.N., he will be the first secretary general to have also led a country's government.

He takes over at a tough moment for the U.N., which is facing crises in Syria and Yemen, as well as a flow of refugees that is upending politics around the globe.