Reuters International

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Costa Rica nominated former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres on Thursday to be the next U.N. Secretary-General, making her the 12th candidate to enter the race ahead of the first Security Council secret ballot later this month.

"The United Nations, and the world, needs a Secretary-General who is a bridge builder, who can listen and consult, who can help resolve disputes, build agreements and anticipate problems. Christiana Figueres has proven to be that person," said Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis.

Figueres recently stepped down from her role as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change after six years. She is credited by some diplomats for helping lead more than 190 countries to a global climate deal.

The search for a successor to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - a former South Korean foreign minister who steps down at the end of 2016 after two five-year terms - has sparked a push by more than a quarter of the 193 U.N. states for the organisation's first female leader.

The other female candidates are: U.N. cultural organisation UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria; former Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic; Moldova's former Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman; former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who heads the U.N. Development Programme; and Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who was Ban's chief of staff until late last year.

Also in the race are former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim; Montenegro Foreign Minister Igor Luksic; former Slovenian President Danilo Turk; former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who is also a former Portuguese prime minister; former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic; and Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak.

The 15-member Security Council will hold its first informal secret ballot on July 21 and hopes to agree on a candidate by September or October to formally recommend to the General Assembly for election.

Ultimately the council's veto powers - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - have to agree on a candidate. There is no requirement for the five to pay attention to the popularity of candidates with the General Assembly.

Since the power to authorise military force or sanctions lies with the Security Council, the U.N. chief has little more than a bully pulpit. Many diplomats say the veto powers prefer a "secretary" rather than a "general."

Under an informal tradition of rotating the top post between regions, it is Eastern Europe's turn and eight of the current nominees are from there. Russia backs the rotation, but has signalled it would not veto a candidate just because that person was not from Eastern Europe.

At least two-thirds of the candidates are set to take part in two debates in the U.N. General Assembly on July 12 which will be broadcast live on al Jazeera.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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