No one should shed any tears over the United States' decision to block United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's re-election for a second term. In his five years in the post, he has squandered opportunities presented by the end of the cold war which should have been the signal for the global body to play a key role in building a new world order. Instead, from his reluctance to order air strikes in Bosnia to the mismanagement of the crisis in Somalia, the former Egyptian foreign minister has shown a lack of leadership and management skills that have badly damaged the reputation of the UN and left it virtually bankrupt. In an organisation where every decision is dictated by geopolitical rivalries, some countries may back his re-election simply out of loyalty to a fellow representative of the Third World. Others will do so because they dislike the idea of Washington being able to exercise such a powerful influence over the selection process. But since the US, as a Security Council permanent member, can veto any appointment, it would be more productive to look elsewhere. China has made clear it wants a non-European to fill the post. Beijing would probably prefer this to be Dr Boutros-Ghali. However there are others who better reflect the region's interests. As the world moves into the so-called Pacific Century, it would be more appropriate to see an Asian head the world body. There are no shortage of credible contenders. Japan's Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is highly regarded by all who deal with her. She was recently ranked by The Times as one of the region's most powerful women, narrowly beating Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang. Another possibility is Jayantha Dhanapala, Sri Lanka's ambassador to the US. Since Chinese and Third World opposition will probably make it impossible to appoint a North American or European, Asia has a chance to make its mark: by providing a candidate who can rescue the UN from the mess Dr Boutros-Ghali has left it in.