UNITED NATIONS – South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon took the oath of office as the next secretary-general of the United Nations on Thursday, promising to restore the organization’s tarnished reputation and push for peace in the Middle East and Darfur.
In his sharpest comments, he said Iran’s call for Israel’s destruction and its dismissal of the Holocaust were “unacceptable,” and he expressed concern about the regional and global implications of Tehran’s nuclear program.
Ban also said he planned to become “directly engaged” in efforts to bring peace to Sudan’s Darfur region, adding his first trip may be to an African Union summit in late January. The AU provides the peacekeeping force in Darfur which has been unable to quell nearly four years of violence that has left more than 200,000 people dead and created a massive humanitarian crisis.
“The suffering of the people of Darfur is simply unacceptable, and despite intensive efforts, the security situation appears to be deteriorating over recent days,” he said.
Calling himself “a harmonizer and bridge-builder,” Ban said his first priority when he takes the reins of the U.N. on Jan. 1 will be “to restore trust,” in the organization. The U.N. has been criticized for corruption and mismanagement. He also pledged to try to rebuild trust among member states who have been deeply divided over U.N. reforms.
The ceremony in the General Assembly chamber first paid tribute to Kofi Annan, who steps down as the U.N. chief on Dec. 31 after 10 years. The 192-member assembly approved a resolution by acclamation lauding Annan’s “many bold initiatives” to reduce poverty, promote peace, protect the environment and launch the U.N. reform process.