UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly officially approved Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan to succeed Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. TIME's Marguerite Michaels says Annan will begin his term on January 1 on significantly better footing with the U.S. than his predecessor: "Five years ago, when Boutros-Ghali was being considered, the U.S. was apprehensive because even then he had a reputation for arrogance. He was also not an administrator, which is what the U.S. wanted." Annan, on the other hand, is the United States' hand-picked choice, and resentment of that fact will undoubtedly hinder the diplomat's relations with some nations. "If somebody has to carry this burden," Michaels says, "he's probably the only one who can pull it off. He's a team builder and a bureaucrat, but the question is, Does he have vision?" His first order of business as secretary general will be stabilizing UN finances. One immediate help would be to convince the U.S. to pay more than $1 billion in back dues. His ability to collect will depend convincing critics in the Republican Congress and the Clinton Administration that he is more enthusiastic about reform than Boutros-Ghali.