United Nations, N.Y. — The race of secretary-general of the United Nations, which has overshadowed all other events of the 36th General Assembly, has reached a crucial new stage. Experienced UN observers analyze international political maneuvering over the race this way:
*The United States probably will veto Salim Salim, the Tanzanian foreign minister who is Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim's chief challenger for the UN post. The Reagan administration is not keen on entrusting the key UN leadership position to "an independent Marxist," a man who was educated in Cuba, is sympathetic toward China, and who is known as an activist, even though Salim is also known to be flexible and highly skilled.
*The Soviet Union probably will veto Salim, as well. It stood shoulder to shoulder with the US when it was in its interests to bypass the third world -- such as when attempts were launched to dilute the veto power and to introduce institutional changes in UN machinery.
While some analysts feel the Soviet Union might abstain and let the US do "the dirty work," other are convinced that even though vetoing a third-world candidate might embarrass the Soviet Union, in matters of power its leaders do not allow matters of image to interfere with Realpolitik.
*China will probably veto Waldheim a couple of times to stress it s solidarity with the third world. The veto would follow Salim's demise at the hands of the superpowers.
Some believe a Chines veto, if cast with obstinacy, could lead to an impass or to the emergence of a third candidate. But this scenario is considered to be unlikely by "old China hands," who think that "two vetos against Waldheim will allow China to score its propaganda point, after which it will join the Waldheim bandwagon.
*Britain and Frace may flirt with Salim's candidacy at first to avoid third world resentment, but basically support Waldheim.
*The third world, though the Orgaization of African Unity and the nonaligned movement, endorese Salim. But it has shown no tidal wave of support for him.
The third world pays lip service t Salim's candidacy in public, but a number of African governments have lobbied against him in Western capitals or expressed reservations. Therefore some of the nonaligned at Security Council are expected to rapidly defect from Salim's camp to Waldheim.
*Latin Americans are waiting in the wings as alternative candidates for the post. But a Western diplimat says. "They have not a chance. Any Latin American who pleases Washington is highly suspect to the Soviet Union and the reverse is even more true."
*An institutional crisis could develop of the General Assembly ignores the Security Council recommendation (which presumably will be for Waldheim) and votes for Salim.
Yet such an crisis is "highly unlikely," says a well-informed African diplomat. "Third-world support for Salim is not that overwhelming and there are few governments who are willing to wreck the organinzation only to express their emotions," he says.
Prophesies have proved wrong at the UN. But since Waldheim appears to be the only candidate the US and USSR can agree to and since he is popular with most Arabs, Africans, Latin Americans, and Asians, Waldheim will probably succeeed himself, says a top diplomat. Selection could start as early as Oct. 26.