Diplomats have said Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign affairs minister, is a strong candidate to replace Kofi Annan as the United Nations' peace envoy to Syria.
Brahimi's possible appointment could be announced as early as next week, but the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said late on Thursday that there could be last-minute changes if a key government has concerns about the choice.
The former Algerian foreign affairs minister has a long history as a diplomatic troubleshooter, and will if appointed face tough challenges in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is using his security forces to try to crush a 17-month-old uprising.
Brahimi, 78, has served as a UN special envoy in a series of challenging circumstances, including in Iraq after the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and in Afghanistan both before and after the end of Taliban rule. He was posted in South Africa as it emerged from the apartheid era.
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Syria, however, may present an unusually vexing assignment, in part because international action to try to end the violence has been stymied by the disagreements between the five veto-holding permanent members of the UN Security Council.
While the security council united in April to approve the deployment of 300 monitors to Syria to observe a failed ceasefire as part of Annan's peace plan, Russia and China vetoed three other resolutions that criticized Syria and threatened sanctions against Damascus.
Annan, a former UN secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said last week he would step down as the special envoy because he was unable to do his job with the UN Security Council hopelessly deadlocked over Syria.
In announcing his resignation, Annan explicitly blamed "finger-pointing and name-calling" at the Security Council for his decision to quit, but suggested his successor may have better luck.
In accepting Annan's resignation, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon thanked him for having taken on "this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments".
A spokesman for Ban, who is expected to formally name Annan's successor, was not immediately available for comment.