Security Council nominates Portugal's Guterres as U.N. chief

October 6, 2016 10:36 AM EDT

Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees, pauses during a news conference for the launch of the Global Humanitarian Appeal 2016 at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File photo

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Thursday unanimously nominated former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres to be the next Secretary-General, recommending that the 193-member General Assembly appoint him for five years from Jan. 1, 2017.

The General Assembly is likely to meet next week to approve the appointment of Guterres, 67, who would replace Ban Ki-moon, 72, of South Korea. Ban will step down at the end of 2016 after serving two terms.

"Humility (is what I feel) about the huge challenges ahead of us, the terrible complexity of the modern world," Guterres said in a short statement in Lisbon, which he repeated in various languages.

"But it is also humility that is required to serve the most vulnerable, victims of conflicts, of terrorism, rights violations, poverty and injustices of this world," he said.

Ban, speaking during a visit to Rome, described Guterres as a "super choice" as his successor.

"I am sure he will carry the torch on the full range of key challenges, from strengthening peace operations to achieving sustainable development, upholding human rights and easing humanitarian suffering," Ban told reporters.

Guterres was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015.

"He has great United Nations credentials ... and being High Commissioner for Refugees means traveling the world and seeing some of the most gruesome conflicts we have to deal with and then of course he is a high-level politician," said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, president of the council for October.

"He is a person who talks to everybody, listens to everybody, speaks his mind, a very outgoing, open person so I think it was a great choice and I'm glad that we rallied around Mr Guterres," Churkin told reporters.

The council met behind closed doors on Thursday to adopt a two-paragraph resolution recommending to the General Assembly that Guterres be appointed.

"Antonio Guterres has shown ... that he is the strongest candidate, he has a vision and a moral authority and integrity that put him at the top of the league table," British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.

French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said Guterres was "the right leader able to bring the nations and the community of nations together."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Guterres was "an excellent choice" to oversee the United Nations during uncertain times because of his "extensive track record solving real world problems, his deep empathy for those in need, and the respect he has earned in all corners of the world."

(Additional reporting by Sergio Goncalves and Andrei Khalip in Lisbon; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and James Dalgleish)

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