The United Nations has elected Maryknoll priest and former Nicaraguan foreign minister Fr Miguel D'Escoto as the next president of its General Assembly.Ireland.com reports that within hours of his election, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, who served as foreign minister in the Sandinista administration that ruled Nicaragua from 1979-90, said he wanted to work with the United States and other countries.
Washington's envoy to the UN said he had similar assurances and would wait and see.
D'Escoto was elected by the 192-member assembly after standing unopposed as the candidate of Latin American and Caribbean countries, whose turn it is to hold the post. He will assume the year-long job in mid-September.
The assembly president has little power but chairs an annual gathering of world leaders in late September. He or she also presides over regular assembly debates, many on development issues, and oversees a long-running drive to expand membership of the powerful UN Security Council.
D'Escoto, 75, served in the Sandinista administration while it fought against an insurgency by US-backed Contra rebels.
In an acceptance speech, D'Escoto made no direct criticisms of the United States but made reference to "acts of aggression" in Iraq and Afghanistan, where US forces are fighting insurgents.
"The behavior of some member states has caused the United Nations to lose credibility as an organisation capable of putting an end to war and eradicating extreme poverty from our planet," he said without elaborating.
But he also said he was not trying to retaliate against any country for past actions, warned against "sterile recriminations" and urged reconciliation "to prevent memories of the past from becoming obstacles to our unity from now on."
The son of a diplomat, D'Escoto was born in Los Angeles and ordained as a Roman Catholic priest. He espoused the left-wing liberation theology movement within the Catholic Church and backed the Sandinistas in the late 1970s, famously earning a reprimand from Pope John Paul II for his involvement in politics.
He has been a long-time supporter of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, who returned to Nicaragua's presidency in 2006. Ortega harshly attacked the United States and expressed support for Iran at last year's General Assembly gathering.
In a 2004 interview, D'Escoto called Ronald Reagan, who was US president in the 1980s, an "international outlaw" and "the butcher of my people."
"Because of Reagan and his spiritual heir George W. Bush, the world today is far less safe and secure than it has ever been," he was quoted as saying.
At a news conference today, D'Escoto stood by those comments but said he now wished to move on.
"I do not want to turn this (General Assembly) presidency into a place to take it out on the United States," he said, adding that he loved the United States as a country.
SOURCEEx-Sandinista gets senior UN job (Ireland.com)
Miguel d'Escoto (Wikipedia)