Reuters International

European Budget and Human Resources Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva holds a news conference after a meeting of the EU executive body in Brussels, Belgium, July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo


SOFIA (Reuters) - The Bulgarian government said on Wednesday it was nominating Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, for the post of United Nations Secretary-General, and that it was withdrawing support for candidate Irina Bokova.

Bokova, director general of U.N. cultural organisation UNESCO, came sixth among nine contenders in a secret ballot at the U.N. Security Council on Monday. The ballot showed former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres is still leading the race to replace Ban Ki-moon.

Sofia had said it would reconsider its support for Bokova if she did not come first or second in the latest ballot.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov announced the nomination of Georgieva during a meeting with the cabinet attended by reporters. "We consider that this will be a more successful nomination," he told ministers.

Georgieva, a former World Bank economist, said in a statement she accepts the nomination and plans to present her credentials and vision for the top U.N. job to member states.

"I am deeply honoured by the decision of the Government of my country to put my name forward for the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations," she said.

Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said Bulgaria needed to support a candidate who has a greater chance to become the first Eastern European to lead the global organisation.

"This was a difficult decision, but it was necessary, so that we give a chance to the (U.N.) Eastern European group to have its secretary-general," Mitov told reporters.

Mitov said U.N. procedure did not allow for a country to withdraw a nomination and that Bokova would have to decide how to proceed, but pointed out that Bulgarian support now goes with Georgieva.

Bokova was not immediately available for comment but had earlier told a Bulgarian newspaper that she saw no reason to quit the race and pointed that a nomination of a second candidate would only hurt the chances for success for both.

Georgieva has been given a month's leave by the EU executive while she seeks election, a spokesman said on Wednesday. Guenther Oettinger, the German commissioner who handles digital affairs, will step in for October to cover her portfolio running the EU budget and personnel matters.

Georgieva, 63, has a significant role in the Commission.

The European Union is revising its current seven-year budget, which runs until 2020. It is also gearing up for negotiations on a new seven-year package with the added complication of taking into account Britain's exit from the bloc at a date still unknown.

Monday's secret ballot was the fifth held by the security council in this leadership race, and these polls will continue until a consensus is reached. The council will then formally recommend the candidate to the 193-member General Assembly for election.

The next ballot is scheduled for Oct. 5.

Ban steps down at the end of 2016 after serving two five-year terms.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Dominic Evans)


 Reuters International