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United Nations

Serbian foreign minister elected UN assembly president

Serbia’s foreign minister has been elected UN General Assembly president in a rare vote by the body's full membership. He takes the role, normally decided by consensus, after a dispute between Lithuania and Russia.

Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic was elected president of the 67th UN General Assembly session late on Friday.

Jeremic secured 99 votes compared with 85 for Lithuanian UN ambassador Dalius Cekuolis, in the first election for the position by the assembly since 1991.

Jeremic said his election to the prestigious, but mainly ceremonial role, marked "the end of a painful era" for Serbia after the isolation that followed the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

"We are a small developing country that belongs to no military alliance or political union," Jeremic said at the assembly podium after his election.

"It is therefore truly honoring to have received the confidence of so many nations from all over the world to preside over the main deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations."

The assembly presidency rotates between the regional groups, with Eastern Europe taking its turn this time. Groups normally put forward a candidate who is accepted by consensus rather than chosen in an election.

However, the East European Group had not been able to reach a unanimous agreement. Cekuolis had accused Russia of backing Jeremic to punish Lithuania for maintaining that it suffered from tyranny during decades of Soviet rule. Diplomatic sources at the UN claimed that Russia had been lobbying on behalf of Jeremic.

Jeremic replaces outgoing president Nassir Al-Nasser, of Qatar.

rc/ch (AFP, dpa, Reuters)