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China's Zhao named new head of ITU

Incumbent deputy secretary-general Zhao Houlin was elected Thursday to head the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for the next four years, becoming the organization's first leader from China.

   Zhao, 64, received 152 votes among 156 member states who voted, far more than the 77 required to be elected. The ITU has 193 members.

   "I feel deeply moved that you have unanimously and enthusiastically elected me as the new secretary-general of the ITU," Zhao said in his speech shortly after the announcement.

   "Entrusting to me the honor of leading our beloved organization for the next four years, I sincerely thank all of you for your confidence in me," he added. "At this happy moment, I would like to express my profound gratitude to the government of China for presenting me my candidature."

   Zhao's election was widely expected as he was the sole candidate for the position, as is customary at the ITU. Some see his election as a shift by the organization away from dominance by the U.S. and European countries.

   The ITU is an information and communications arm of the United Nations that sets technological standards, allocates radio frequencies and satellite orbits, and works to improve the quality of communications services.

   Current secretary-general Hamadoun Toure's term ends this year.

   Zhao started working at the ITU in 1986 after graduating from China's Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications and earning a master's at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. He can speak three official languages of the United Nations -- Chinese, English and French.

   Zhao served two terms as the ITU's director of the Telecommunications Standardization Bureau from 1999 to 2006, and became the deputy secretary-general in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011.

   "Over the recent two years, I have seen an ever-increasing support to ITU by our members and a very high expectation of ITU's role by ITU's friends and partners worldwide. As newly elected secretary-general, I would like to assure you I will do my best to fulfill ITU missions, and through our close cooperation to make ITU deliver services to the global telecommunications and Information society at the level of excellence," he said.

   It will mark the third time for an Asian to head the ITU. Manohar Balaji Sarwate from India headed the ITU from 1965 to 1967, and Utsumi Yoshio from Japan led the organization from 1999 to 2006. 

ITU started accepting international members after becoming a U.N. agency in 1947. The Chinese delegation cheered the results.

   "I believe that with the concerted support of all parties, (Zhao) will lead the new management team of ITU to make concerted efforts, keep abreast of the times, better serve the memberships of the ITU and make positive contributions to enabling ITU to play a greater role in the global ICT sector," an official from the Chinese delegation said.

   South Korea also welcomed the outcome, saying "We believe with his excellent leadership, deep knowledge... he will contribute to the further development of telecommunications and ICT for the world and the ITU."

   While candidates from Canada, Britain, Poland, Nigeria and Mauritania bid to succeed Zhao as the deputy secretary general, the race has gone into a run-off as no one won a majority despite Mauritania and Canada's withdrawals. The vote will be held again on Friday.

   Under the ITU rules, one or two ballots will be held in at least six hour intervals if no one has the majority. Elections for other major posts were also to continue until Friday.

   France's Francois Rancy will be the only candidate for the director of the Radiocommunication Bureau, aiming for a second term. The director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau election also has only one candidate, Brahima Sanou from Burkina Faso who, too, is going after a consecutive term.

   South Korea's Lee Chae-sub is among the three candidates running for director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, along with Ahmet Erdinc Cavusoglu of Turkey and Bilel Jamoussi of Tunisia. (Yonhap)

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