Samir Shihabi

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Samir al Shihabi
Samir Shihabi.JPG
Shihabi in 1958
President of the United Nations General Assembly
In office
Preceded by Guido de Marco
Succeeded by Stoyan Ganev
Personal details
Born (1925-05-27)27 May 1925
Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine
Died 25 August 2010(2010-08-25) (aged 85)

Samir al Shihabi, (27 May 1925 – 25 August 2010) served as President of the United Nations General Assembly from 1991 to 1992.

Early life and education[edit]

Shihabi was born in Jerusalem on 27 May 1925.[1][2] He studied at Yale University and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University.[1]


One of the most prominent Saudi diplomats of his generation, Shihabi joined the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1949.[3] He rose quickly to become Charge d'Affairs in Italy in 1959 and then served as Saudi Ambassador to Turkey from 1964 to 1973, Ambassador to Somalia for six months in 1974 and then assumed the post of Acting Deputy Foreign Minister early in the tenure of Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal. He was then appointed Ambassador to Pakistan in 1979, before becoming Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1983.[1]

In 1991, he was elected as President of the United Nations General Assembly.[2] His final diplomatic posting, in 1994, was as Ambassador to Switzerland after which he retired in 1999.

His career was marked by a close personal and working relationship with the late King Faisal and also the late King Fahd. He carried out sensitive missions for King Faisal in support of Saudi efforts to limit Soviet influence in the region. With King Fahd he worked closely on the Afghanistan file, post the Soviet invasion.

His posting to Pakistan in 1979 was directly related to these efforts, and to putting in place the military alliance between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that by the early 1980s had over 10,000 Pakistani troops posted in the Kingdom.

His election to the Presidency of the U.N General Assembly, in 1991, was one of the few hard fought elections for what had traditionally been a consensus appointment by rotation among regions.

This followed the Gulf War and the deep split in the Middle East between pro-Saddam Iraq nations and the GCC. Shihabi had also entered the race very late in the game, months after three other candidates had already declared their intent to run, including the Foreign Minister of Yemen and also after the US and UK governments had publicly pledged their support for another candidate (a Foreign Minister of a British Commonwealth country). His surprise victory, and by a wide margin, was commented on by the New York Times and Time Magazine.,

Personal life[edit]

Shihabi married Norwegian-born (Widad) Kari Stonjum.[4] They met in 1948 at Cambridge University where he was studying.[4] They then settled in Saudi Arabia.[4] Their son, Ali al Shihabi, is a former Chairman of a bank and an author.[4]


Shihabi died at his farm in Portugal on 25 August 2010.[5]


  1. ^ a b c "General Assembly Elects a Saudi President as 46th Session Opens", Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 1991
  2. ^ a b "Saudi Elected by the U.N. Assembly", New York Times, 18 September 1991
  3. ^ "Profile: Samir Shihabi". Star News. 18 September 1991. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d "From Board Rooms to War Games: A Conversation with Ali Al Shihabi". Arabia Link. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "Secretary-General mourns deaths of Guido de Marco of Malta and Samir S. Shihabi of Saudi Arabia". UN. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Guido de Marco
President of the United Nations General Assembly
Succeeded by
Stoyan Ganev