Helen Clark's UN Secretary-General hopes fade

United Nations Secretary-General hopeful Helen Clark (Getty)
United Nations Secretary-General hopeful Helen Clark (Getty)

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres still leads the race to become the next United Nations Secretary-General after a fourth UN Security Council secret ballot, diplomats say.

That leaves former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to lag behind, dropping in the rankings to eighth after Slovenian diplomat Danilo Turk made up good ground to overtake her.

The setback doesn't mean she'll drop out of the race altogether, though - Clark announcing she'll remain a candidate after her minor improvement as the race is a tight one.

In a statement, it was revealed that Clark would be having "important conversations" in the UN General Assembly's high-level week, starting on September 19.

Clark is one of 10 candidates for the job, and has the support of Prime Minister John Key and the Government.

However she faded lower in the pecking order after the latest straw poll, coming in behind two other female candidates - Bulgaria's Irina Bokova in fifth and Argentinian Susana Malcorra in seventh.

The 15-member council cast a ballot for each of the remaining 10 candidates, and the choices are: encourage, discourage or no opinion.

Clark received six encourage votes, seven discourage and two no opinion, diplomats said, while front-runner Guterres got 12 encourage, two discourage and one no opinion.

This is a slight improvement on his third round result of 11 encourage, three discourage and one no opinion.

The Security Council will hold secret ballots until a consensus is reached on a candidate to replace UN chief Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who steps down at the end of 2016 after serving two five-year terms.

In the most recent ballot Slovakia's Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak hung on to second spot with 10 encourage, four discourage and one no opinion, diplomats said.

This was also a slight improvement on his last result of nine encourage, five discourage and one no opinion.

The next straw poll will be held on Monday, September 26.

Reuters / Newshub.