He will replace Boutros Boutros-Ghali when the latter's five-year term expires at the end of the month. Mr Annan, who has been in charge of UN peacekeeping since 1993, commands fierce loyalty among UN officials and is widely respected.
He emerged as the front-runner in informal votes by the Security Council this week. Britain has played a pivotal role in supporting Mr Annan, who was London's and Washington's favoured choice.
France had been threatening to scupper his chances because of its continued support for a second term for Mr Boutros-Ghali and its anger at the United States, which was blocking this. The formal objection to him was that as after 30 years as a UN civil servant he was not the best figure to bring fresh energy to the organisation. But the first signs of a French climbdown came yesterday morning in New York, as European Union leaders, including President Jacques Chirac, met in Dublin.
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