NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Asean countries are backing Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai to succeed Kofi Annan as the U.N.'s secretary-general, The Straits Times reports.
The move was made in an early and unusually public manner, apparently designed to short-circuit bids by other regional hopefuls, the newspaper said.
The secretary-general's post is filled by rotation around the world. Lobbying for the post generally begins two years ahead of the handover and the Straits Times said it is widely accepted it is Asia's turn to fill the job when Annan's term expires at the end of 2006.
Surakiart is a former oil company executive and finance minister. He is U.S.-educated and has a PhD in law from Harvard University.
Surakiart's Asean endorsement does not rule out candidates from the Middle East or Gulf states, nor from central Asia or the subcontinent. And the newspaper said neither will it necessarily parry a challenge from Eastern Europe, where leaders believe they also have a claim to become the next secretary-general.