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U.N. chief appoints Russian diplomat to top anti-terror job

UNITED NATIONS/VIENNA (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday appointed one of Moscow’s veteran diplomats to head a newly created U.N. Counterterrorism Office, giving a Russian a top job at the world body’s headquarters in New York.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres takes part in a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Russia’s Ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna, Vladimir Voronkov, told Reuters he met with Guterres on Tuesday. Reuters exclusively reported his appointment earlier on Wednesday.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said that in his new role, Voronkov would “provide strategic leadership to U.N. counterterrorism efforts, participate in the decision-making process of the United Nations and ensure that the cross-cutting origins and impact of terrorism are reflected in the work.”

Haq said Voronkov had more than 30 years experience with the Russian foreign service, working primarily on U.N. issues.

“Countering terrorism is one of the things that most countries can work with Russia on,” said a senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We have very different views on what counts as a terrorist and what counts as an appropriate response to terrorism from Russia, but at least it’s a discussion we can have more easily than we can have on political affairs or peacekeeping,” the diplomat said.

Nationals from four of the five veto-wielding powers on the U.N. Security Council - the United States, Britain, France and China - have for the past decade held senior U.N. posts at the world body’s headquarters in New York.

An American heads U.N. political affairs, a Frenchman has run peacekeeping, a Briton has been in charge of humanitarian affairs, and a Chinese national has run economic and social affairs. For the past seven years a Russian has headed the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

“It is fair to say that the Russians are under-represented at the U.N. at the most senior levels,” the senior Western diplomat said.

The 193-member United Nations General Assembly approved the creation of a U.N. Counterterrorism Office last week, which will help states implement a global counterterrorism strategy adopted by the General Assembly in 2006.

The strategy, which has been reviewed every two years, aims to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, measures to prevent and combat terrorism, build states’ capacity to do so, and ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law as the basis for the fight.

The appointment of Voronkov ends speculation among some diplomats that Moscow may have wanted its ambassador to the Washington, Sergei Kislyak, to do the job.

Kislyak has become embroiled in controversy after some U.S. lawmakers raised concern about his meetings with officials of President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump has denied any collusion by his campaign with Moscow.

U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Trump. Russia has denied any such interference.

Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and James Dalgleish