NEW YORK // A Qatari diplomat has been elected as the next president of the UN General Assembly, saying he will use his one-year term in office to build cohesion between nations and tackle war, disease and poverty.
Doha's ambassador to the UN, Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser, was elected by acclamation and will start work in September at the beginning of the UN's annual meeting of presidents, kings and prime ministers from the world body's 192 members.
Mr Al Nasser's election on Wednesday highlights Qatari efforts to play a lead role in world affairs and may mean an Arab diplomat will oversee the debate over whether Palestinians should gain membership if Palestinians pursue a vote in September. Palestinian officials have indicated they will seek the required two-thirds majority of votes from the UN General Assembly to back a resolution that recognises a Palestinian state, despite objections from the United States and Israel.
Mr Al Nasser said: "We hear rumours that they [are] seeking recognition by the General Assembly, but, at the end of the day, it's up to member states to do that. Being the president of the General Assembly, there are rules and regulations, which I will respect and will follow, no matter which country is seeking this admission."
Although the presidency of the General Assembly is largely ceremonial, UN rules say the post-holder oversees debate in the chamber and "shall have complete control of the proceedings at any meeting and over the maintenance of order".
Mr Al Nasser said he would use his presidency to tackle "armed conflict, the rights of peoples to self-determination, hunger, poverty, terrorism, climate change, the global economic and financial crisis and humanitarian response to natural disasters".
The theme of the upcoming UN General Assembly will be the "role of mediation in the settlement of disputes by peaceful means", he said. Achieving the UN's poverty-reduction targets, the so-called Millennium Development Goals, which aim to halve the number of those living below the poverty line of US$1.25 (Dh4.6) a day by 2015, is a "top priority" for Mr Al Nasser, the Qatari UN mission's website says.
Mr Al Nasser, 59, was selected during closed-door meetings of the UN's 53-nation Asian Group in February.
He has served as Doha's envoy to the UN since 1988 in a diplomatic career that has seen him posted to the UAE, Pakistan, Jordan and Lebanon. He is married and holds a law degree from Beirut Arab University.
Within the UN system, Qatar has been elected to the Security Council, the Human Rights Council, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Economic and Social Council and is vying to host UN climate change talks next year.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, described Qatar as an "increasingly important actor in the international arena", saying he has visited Doha for talks on Libya, Middle East peace, the financial crisis, voting rights and trade.