Middle East

Syria conflict 'top priority' for next UN chief Guterres

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Media captionNew UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says ending the conflict in Syria is his top priority

The UN's newly-elected Secretary General Antonio Guterres says he will make ending Syria's civil war his top priority.

"I believe it is the international community's first priority to be able to end this conflict," he told the BBC.

Mr Guterres said the world now faced a dangerous moment, with even countries far from warzones threatened by acts of terrorism.

He called the drive to end armed conflict "a battle for values".

In his first interview since his unanimous election, Mr Guterres told the BBC's Lyse Doucet world leaders had a "vital shared interest" in ending Syria's war, and the global strife that is linked to it.

He added that Syrians were victims not just of their own problems, but of all the contradictions of today's world.

Asked if he feared worse bloodshed in Syria, he replied: "I hope not. I sincerely hope not because we have seen such a terrible level of suffering. To think that this will even get worse... I believe it is the international community's first priority to be able to end this conflict."

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Mr Guterres will become the world's top diplomat on 1 January, when Ban Ki-moon's second five-year term ends.

Trained as an engineer, he entered politics in 1976 in Portugal's first democratic election after the "Carnation Revolution" that ended five decades of dictatorship.

His nomination came despite a concerted effort to appoint the UN's first female secretary general. Of the 13 candidates, seven were women, among them Unesco director-general Irina Bokova from Bulgaria, and Helen Clark, 66, a former prime minister of New Zealand and current head of the UN development programme.