NEW YORK: The United Nations has named Shashi Tharoor to its top global PR post in charge of nearly 800 staff.
The move comes 18 months after Tharoor was appointed interim head of the Department of Public Information (DPI) to replace Kensaku Hogen, who left at the end of 2000 to become Japan's Ambassador to Canada.
Tharoor has now officially taken on the role of undersecretary general for communications and public information based in New York, reporting to secretary general Kofi Annan.
In the post, Tharoor - whose UN career began in 1978 - heads a team of more than 750 communications staff across 77 countries. His responsibilities span all relations with the public and media, via radio, broadcast, press, and the internet.
The UN runs an up-to-the-minute online news site alongside a global radio service broadcasting in nine languages.
He said immediate priorities are to focus on the Middle East crisis.
"Right now, we have an ongoing challenge in the Middle East with the UN's image, and are sending communications staff there to get a sense of how the UN is seen and how we can improve it, he said.
Since his initial appointment to the DPI last year, Tharoor has led a reform of the division to make sure the team matches the increasing communications demands on the UN.