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UN elects Norway's Solheim to head UN environment agency
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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly elected Norway's former environment minister Erik Solheim on Friday to head the U.N. environment agency.

Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft banged his gavel, signifying the 193-member world body's approval by consensus of Solheim's nomination for a four-year term starting June 15 to lead the agency known as UNEP.

Solheim succeeds Achim Steiner who holds dual German-Brazilian citizenship.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "gratitude and appreciation" to Steiner for his 10-year tenure and lauded his achievements in coordinating U.N. environment efforts, Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Solheim, 61, currently heads the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's committee on development assistance based in Paris, and serves as UNEP's special envoy for environment, conflict and disaster.

Dujarric said Solheim, known as "the green politician," has focused on the challenge of integrating environmental and developmental issues. He also "initiated the process leading to the global coalition to conserve and promote sustainable use of the world's rainforests," the U.N. spokesman said.

Nairobi-based UNEP calls itself "the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda" and advocates for environmental protection.

Solheim has said he wants UNEP to relate more to the average person and further engage the private sector to achieve global environmental goals.