Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chilean president's name floated for U.N.

Posted By Colum Lynch

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has been engaged in highly discreet talks with the United Nations about coming to work for the organization after she steps down next month as her country's first female leader, according to senior U.N. sources.

Bachelet's name has been floated in recent weeks as a possible special representative to Haiti and as a candidate for a soon-to-be-created high-level post as Ban Ki-moon's point person on issues relating to women, according to senior U.N. officials and diplomats."There are people who think she would be great for a number of U.N. jobs," said a senior U.N. diplomat familiar with the matter.

Bachelet has signaled that she is not interested in the women's post, and sources say it is unlikely that she will go to Haiti. But they say she is interested in pursuing a senior position in the United Nations, preferably as the head of a U.N. agency or another high-flying U.N. job.

U.N. sources said any talk about Bachelet's future will have to be put off for the immediate future while she leads the Chilean response to Saturday's massive, 8.8-magnitude earthquake.

But she is unlikely to play any political role in the incoming government of the conservative leader, Sebastian Pinera, whose election ends 20 years of center-left rule in Chile.

The Socialist political leader, who briefly went to high school in Bethesda, Maryland, in the early 1960s, has been considered among the world's most powerful and influential women since her election as president in 2006. Last year, Forbes magazine placed her 22nd on its list of the most powerful 100 women in the world.

Bachelet's father, Air Force Brigadier General Alberto Bachelet, was a senior military advisor to President Salvador Allende, the Socialist Chilean leader who was killed during a U.S. backed military coup. He was imprisoned and tortured by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's military government and died in prison. Michelle Bachelet was also detained along with her mother in 1975 andtortured.

A trained doctor and student of military strategy, Bachelet has headed Chile's health and defense ministries.

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