Bill O’Reilly, host of the highest-rated program on No. 1 Fox News Channel, last night endorsed Bill Clinton to replace Kofi Annan as secretary-general of the United Nations.

Richard Holbrooke

While ripping Annan’s tenure as leader of the U.N. in an interview with Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, O’Reilly was asked by the guest what he would like to see happen.

“I’d like to see Annan out of there,” he said. “I’d like to see Bill Clinton take the job. The world loves him. He’d do a good job. It would be good for the United States. Hillary would love it.”

Holbrooke agreed that Clinton would be a superb secretary-general of the U.N., but he continued to argue that Annan is not incompetent and deserves continued support in the job. His tenure ends in 2006.

The idea of Clinton as secretary-general has been talked about in U.N. circles and among the former president’s insiders for more than two years.

In October, a United Press International report said Clinton “definitely wants to do it.” According to the report, Clinton’s candidacy would receive overwhelming support from U.N. member states, particularly in the Third World.

But Clinton faces an unusual predicament – and potential obstacle – in his quest: Can he get the support of the U.S. government to take on the assignment?

U.N. boosters think Clinton as secretary-general would bolster the prestige of the world body.

No American has ever been U.N. secretary-general even though the United States serves as host country and the major contributor to its budget.

“Critics of the U.N. complain that it’s an organization without the muscle and will to put its decisions into effect,” a U.N. source told UPI. “There’s a good chance that Clinton could significantly change that situation, and then we’ll see if the critics mean what they say.”

This is not the first time Clinton’s interest in the job has been raised.

Back in February of 2003 there were reports of a “major international move” to engineer Clinton into the post. Those reports suggested Clinton had already lined up support for his candidacy for the secretary-general position from Germany, France, England, Ireland, New Zealand, a handful of African states, Morocco and Egypt.

There were also suggestions that Annan might resign before the end of his term in 2006.

Annan took over as U.N. chief in 1997. On the record, he has said he intends to fill out his entire term.

Clinton’s fund-raising prowess is viewed in some quarters as a real incentive for the U.N.

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