Byline: EDWARD HARRIS
UNITED NATIONS -- Cheering and clapping, delegates in the United Nations General Assembly approved South Korea's foreign minister as the world body's next secretary-general.
Ban Ki-moon vowed reforms for the United Nations as it faces a "complex'' world.
The 192-member body approved Secretary-General Kofi Annan's successor by acclamation Friday at UN headquarters and the longtime South Korean diplomat promised to burnish the tarnished world body - and use it to help future generations.
"I earnestly hope that young boys and girls of today will grow up knowing that the UN is working hard to build a better future for them,'' Ban said in accepting the nomination. "As secretary-general, I will embrace their hopes and hear their appeals.''
Ban, 62, will become the eighth secretary-general in the UN's 60-year history on Jan. 1 when Annan's second five-year term expires.
Ban recalled his childhood in South Korea before it shook off years of war and poverty to become a thriving, multi-party democracy.
"Fifty years later, the world is a much more complex place, and there are many more actors to turn to,'' he said.
South Korea's presidential office in a statement Saturday said Ban's appointment "is a significant and proud occasion that constitutes a testimony to the heightened status of (South) Korea in the world.
"We expect that he will contribute greatly to world peace and common prosperity, including the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.''
The assembly's action capped the rise of a man who was little known outside of Asia before launching his campaign to succeed Annan. It also marked a milestone for South Korea, which joined the United Nations only in 1991 and still has UN troops on the tense border with North Korea.
In a speech mixing humility and forcefulness, Ban laid out his vision for the United Nations, whose reputation has been tarnished by corruption scandals and whose outdated practices still need major reform to meet the challenges of the 21st century despite some modest initial steps.
"My tenure will be marked by ceaseless efforts to build bridges and close divides,'' he told hundreds of diplomats and UN staff minutes after the assembly resolution was adopted. "Leadership of harmony not division, by example not instruction, has served me well so far. I intend to stay the course as secretary-general.''
During a nearly 40-year career as a diplomat, Ban said, "I have been elated by the successes of the UN in making life better for countless people. I have also been pained by scenes of its failures. In too many places could I feel the dismay over inaction of the U.N., or action that was too little or came too late.''
"I am determined to dispel the disillusionment,'' he said.
The White House warmly welcomed Ban's appointment and said it expected him to oversee reforms at the United Nations.
"The President has had the opportunity to get to know Foreign Minister Ban during the course of his administration and looks forward to continuing their excellent working relationship,'' U.S. President George W. Bush's spokesman, Tony Snow, said in a statement. "We will rely on his leadership to help steer the U.N. organization.''
Ban was one of seven candidates vying to be the U.N. chief and topped all four informal polls in the U.N. Security Council. The council then voted by acclamation to recommend his selection. …