UN Chief postpones visit to South Korea

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has indefinitely postponed his planned visits to South Korea and three other Asian nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Friday. His visit to Seoul was originally scheduled for Dec. 7-9. ``The U.N. Secretariat has informed our government of the inevitable postponement of the visit to South Korea, which was part of the secretary-generals round-trip to Asia from Dec. 4 through 16, citing the possibility of a crisis regarding the U.N. budget, the ministry said in a statement.

``The discussion on the regular budget proposal for 2006-2007 is underway at the U.N., the statement added. ``As the United States is firm on its stance that not the biennial budget, but only a three or four-month interim budget can be approved without implementation of important reform measures such as management improvement within the U.N. Secretariat, there is a possibility that the budget proposal cannot pass this year.

The U.N. headquarters in New York also announced that Annan postponed his Asian trip because of ``pressing matters, particularly discussions over the U.N. budget and other urgent political issues. The postponement of Annans visit amid brewing trouble over the U.N. budget comes as a disappointment to South Korea, as the government has been looking forward to the U.N. chiefs visit to discuss a range of issues including the political situation in Northeast Asia as well as South Koreas status at the world body.

Last week, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon told reporters that he believes Annans visit would help promote South KoreaЎЇs relationship with the U.N. and contribute to enhancing the countrys international image.

Annans visit would have also provided a timely opportunity to discuss South Koreas ambition to field a candidate for the top U.N. post next year. Last month, Ban told reporters that South Korea is ``seriously considering proposing a candidate to become the next secretary-general of the U.N.

Annan, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, will step down from his post in December 2006, finishing his second five-year term. Other Asian countries, including Sri Lanka and Thailand, have officially announced their intention of fielding candidates, reports Korea Times. I.L.

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