391. Memorandum From the Representative to the United Nations (Goldberg) to President Johnson1


  • UN Secretary General

My conversation yesterday with U Thant (reported in telegram number 383 from the US Mission in New York—Tab A)2 leads me to the conclusion that we will probably be unable to persuade him to run for another term. The best we might hope for is that he would agree to stay on for some months while we seek agreement on a successor. A new Secretary-General would have to be chosen “by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”, which means that the Soviets must agree.

If U Thant announced his decision to step down early in September, two months before his term formally expires (November 3), many hats will immediately be thrown into the ring for his job. It is very important to us that any candidate selected be as sympathetic as possible to our views, but we recognize that over the long run an objective and impartial UN Secretary-General is essential for the good of the Organization and its work. It is highly important the new man be a good executive and administrator; the UN Secretariat badly needs administrative pruning and a strong guiding hand.

While it is too early to say much about individuals, a good many names have been mentioned as possibilities. Among the stronger prospects are:

Robert Gardiner (Ghana)—He is probably the most outstanding African administrator on the international scene.
Kurt Waldheim—Austrian UN Representative. (He told me a considerable number of Africans want him to take the job if U Thant will not.)
Francisco Cuevas Cancino—Mexican UN Representative.
Max Jakobson—Finnish UN Representative.
Majid Rahnema—Iranian Ambassador to Switzerland and member of a number of Iranian delegations to the General Assembly.
Sadruddin Khan (Iran)— UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Arthur J. Goldberg
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 4. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Document 390.