NEW YORK (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan selected former President Clinton yesterday to be the U.N. point man for tsunami reconstruction, saying no one could better ensure that the world doesn’t forget the needs of the countries devastated by the Dec. 26 disaster.

Clinton said in a statement that he looked forward to serving as Annan’s special envoy starting next month.

Soon after the disaster, President Bush named Clinton and his father, President George H.W. Bush, to head a nationwide private fund-raising effort to help the 11 countries affected by the tsunamis.

The disaster killed more than 157,000 people and displaced millions of others.

Clinton said he will continue to focus on his work with Bush “to urge people to contribute to this cause, and the two of us hope to visit the region together later this month.”

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Annan wanted to appoint a special envoy not only to focus on the cleanup and reconstruction but to help resolve conflicts with rebels in the two worst-hit countries — Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

This would give Clinton a chance to use his political skills to tackle longstanding conflicts with rebels in Indonesia’s Aceh province who have been fighting for independence since 1976 and Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka who have been fighting for a separate homeland since 1983.

“The secretary-general is confident that President Clinton will bring energy, dynamism and focus to the task of sustaining world interest in the vital recovery and reconstruction phase following the tsunami disaster,” a U.N. statement said.

“He believes that no one could possibly be better qualified for this task.”


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