BANGKOK: French President Jacques Chirac said the successor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan must be a leader who can unite the international community, a daily said on Wednesday.
Chirac's comments, published in Thailand's English-daily The Nation, came a day after South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon declared his candidacy to replace Annan when his tenure expires at the end of the year.
Thailand supports Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai's bid to succeed Annan but Chirac, who makes his first state visit to the kingdom on February 17-19, stopped short of endorsing Bangkok's candidate.
"This choice will be made bearing in mind that the successor to Kofi Annan must be a name which unites the international community," Chirac said in an interview with the paper.
The next secretary general "must possess all the skills and authority required to satisfactorily carry out this important function -- as well as be able to express and work in both French and English," Chirac said.
Meanwhile, Chirac said Thailand was "the heart of the development of Asia", adding his government hopes to double the number of French firms investing in the kingdom.
His visit comes at the invitation of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 78, who celebrates the 60th anniversary of his coronation this year.
Chirac will attend a banquet hosted by the king on Friday and hold talks with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Saturday.
The French president is then scheduled to go on to India on Sunday, where he will stay until the following evening. He last made an official visit to India in 1998.