South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon has won an informal UN Security Council vote to find Secretary General Kofi Annan's successor, diplomats say.
Ban Ki-moon wants a unanimous decision from the council
The 15 members of the Security Council voted on seven candidates in their third secret ballot on Thursday.
Mr Ban comfortably beat Shashi Tharoor, the Indian UN Undersecretary General for public information who came second.
Mr Annan is due to step down at the end of the year after heading the organisation since 1997.
Other candidates come from Thailand, Jordan and Sri Lanka. Latvia's president and an Afghan candidate entered the contest recently.
In the latest vote delegates indicated whether they "encouraged", or "discouraged" a candidate, or whether they had no opinion.
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai Afghanistan
Ban Ki-moon South Korea
Jayantha Dhanapala Sri Lanka
Prince Zeid al-Hussein Jordan
Surakiart Sathitathai Thailand
Shashi Tharoor India
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga Latvia
In Monday's vote the five permanent members of the Security Council, who have the power of veto, will vote on coloured ballot papers, indicating the likelihood of unanimity among the key players.
The next secretary general is likely to be from an Asian country because of a convention that the position should rotate around by region.
The Security Council will choose its preferred candidate, who must then be confirmed by a vote in the General Assembly.