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Interpol chooses South Korean as new president, rejects Russian favourite

media Interpol headquarters in Lyon Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP

Interpol has announced that Kim Jong-yang of South Korea has been chosen as its new president, beating a Russian official whose candidacy had irritated some Western nations.

Kim, Interpol’s acting president, was picked at a meeting of delegates from Interpol’s 194-member countries on Wednesday in Dubai. He will replace Meng Hongwei, who disappeared in his native China in September.

Kim beat his main rival Alexander Prokopchuk, a former major-general at Russia’s Interior Ministry, currently one of Interpol’s four vice-presidents and head of the agency’s bureau in Russia.

There had been growing calls from some Western nations and Russian dissidents to reject Prokupchuk over concerns that Moscow had used the agency to target its political opponents.

US-backed candidate

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threw his weight behind Kim, who will serve out Meng's term until 2020.

"We encourage all nations and organisations that are part of Interpol and that respect the rule of law to choose a leader with integrity. We believe Mr Kim will be just that," Pompeo told reporters.

In an open letter this week, a bipartisan group of US senators said choosing Prokopchuk would be like "putting a fox in charge of a henhouse".

Red Notices

Of particular concern is Russia's previous applications for Interpol "Red Notices", essentially international arrest warrants, to target those who have fallen foul of the Kremlin.

Anti-Kremlin figures such as Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who has been repeatedly jailed by authorities, had also spoken out against Prokopchuk.

"Our team has suffered from abuse of Interpol for political persecution by Russia," Navalny wrote on Twitter. "I don't think that a president from Russia will help to reduce such violations."

Lithuania, a former member of the Soviet Union, now part of Nato and the EU, had threatened to leave Interpol should Prokopchuk be elected.

The role of president is largely ceremonial, but still wields influence.

Day-to-day operations are handled by the organisation's Secretary general Juergen Stock.

Interpol's headquarters are based in Lyon in the south of France.

(with AFP)

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