Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Former NZ PM Clark to get top U.N. job - media

WELLINGTON, March 25 (Reuters) - Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark will be named as the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), local media reported on Wednesday.

The main television and radio networks said Clark, prime minister from 1999 until 2008, would be named by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon within the coming day.

"The selection process is very close to reaching its conclusion but the UN Secretary General has not yet made his preference public," a spokesman for Clark told the NZ Press Association.

Clark, whose nine-year old centre-left Labour-led government was ousted in last November's election, had been backed for the post by the new National-led government. She quit as head of the party after the election loss.

Clark was said to have emerged as the favoured candidate after major donors put their support behind her.

The UNDP is the U.N.'s agency global development network, providing training, advice, and support for developing countries.

The UNDP Administrator is the third highest post in the United Nations.

Clark, 59, a former political studies lecturer with a passion for mountaineering, has been a member of parliament since 1981 and was New Zealand's first elected female leader.

She has had a reputation as a passionless intellectual, but has won respect for calm demeanour and formidable intellect.

Under her leadership New Zealand charted a more independent foreign policy, although it improved relations with the United States, ruptured since the mid-1980s as a result of New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy.

She opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but commited New Zealand special forces to fight in Afghanistan. (Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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