218. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations 1

107205. Subj: Succession of U Thant.

Amb Waldheim called on Acting Assistant Secretary Herz (IO) June 15 to review prospects for his possible candidacy for UN Secretary Generalship. He said while he has assurance of complete and active support of Austrian Government it had been his feeling that it would be mistake to put forward formal candidacy since agreement among SC members should grow up as consensus, as had been case with Lie, Hammarskjold and U Thant.
Herz said that while US has not decided on how to proceed, it would seem that situation different from that of previous vacancies. We believe U Thant genuinely does not wish to serve. Soviets and others seem to doubt this. As long as there are no active candidacies (other than that of Jakobson) situation might arise where there simply aren’t enough candidates from whom to choose. Herz noted that Amerasinghe and Makonnen candidacies seem at dead center. Although we do not credit the reports that Jakobson has Soviets and/or Arabs against him, his prospects are also not clear at present time.
Waldheim said Austrians have made it known obliquely in several capitals that he might be available as candidate. Several Foreign Ministries had inquired whether he would put forward formal candidacy, among them Japan and Australia, also Diallo Telli of OAU. He said he had touched upon his possible availability in talks with PermReps in New York and had concluded there is interesting symmetry among US and USSR positions in that each does not wish to have it known whom it favors, for fear that the other would oppose. Waldheim also reported that Kosciusco-Morizet (France) had told him that while his country had not made up its mind he could state categorically that France would not vote for any candidate for SYG who does not speak French. Waldheim added he speaks French fluently and expressed doubts that same can be said about Jakobson.
On June 16 Waldheim also called on Counselor Pedersen, making most of same points. He said he was having lunch with UN press correspondents on June 29 and would answer questions by affirming his availability, with Austrian Govt support, if member states were to [Page 391]seek his services; but he would not be, at that time in any case, a “candidate”. Waldheim said Austrian Govt was now circularizing a number of posts to let them know of his availability and of Govt backing.2 Pedersen reiterated that USG had not taken any decisions, that we took U Thant’s desire to retire as being serious, and that we were actively interested in encouraging attention of states to question of agreeing on new SYG. Said he thought Waldheim’s approach seemed sensible, that it was important for Govts to know Austrian Govt supported him, and that decision on formal “candidacy” could only be made by him on basis tactical considerations in New York.
Waldheim said his impression of Soviet position was that they still seemed to prefer U Thant but had not come to any conclusion as to whom else they would prefer when convinced U Thant not available. He said U Thant had told him firmly that he did not want another term. He had also said one or two year extension not acceptable, as such term would put SYG in weak position.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 8–3. Confidential. Repeated to Vienna. Drafted by Herz and Counselor Richard F. Pedersen and approved by Herz.
  2. On July 21 the Austrian Embassy in Washington sent an aide-mémoire to the U.S. Government concerning Waldheim’s willingness to serve as UN Secretary-General. (Ibid.)