A draft letter from the presidents of the Security Council and the General Assembly calls for candidates to replace Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to declare their interest next spring and for the next U.N. chief to be selected by September or October in order to have sufficient time to prepare for the critically important job.

The letter, seen by The Associated Press on Wednesday, sets out a timeline and process for selecting a new secretary-general and the qualifications needed for the woman or man who replaces Ban on Jan. 1, 2017.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, the current Security Council president, told reporters that choosing "a worthy successor" to Ban is one of the important things the U.N. has to do in the coming months.

He expressed hope that the council's 15 members will start the ball rolling by agreeing to the British-drafted letter.

But diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations have been closed, said Russia is in no hurry and wants to wait to send a letter at least until five new members join the council on Jan. 1 because they will be making the final selection, and possibly longer.

Since the U.N. was founded 70 years ago, the Security Council has essentially picked the U.N. chief in a closed meeting and handed the name to the General Assembly for its approval. The five permanent council members with veto power — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — have had the strongest sway, and they will remain key players in the final selection.

But the General Assembly voted unanimously in early September to make the largely secretive process more open and transparent.

The resolution will allow the world body's 193 member states for the first time to see basic information about all candidates to replace Ban, including their resumes. The General Assembly will also have the chance to meet and question candidates.

The resolution asks the presidents of the assembly and council to start the process of soliciting candidates for the position through a joint letter addressed to all member states, containing a description of the entire process and inviting candidates to be presented in a timely manner.

The draft letter circulated by Britain states that "to run an organization as large and diverse as the United Nations requires exceptional and proven executive level management and leadership skills."

Besides a commitment to the U.N.'s purpose and principles, it says, "extensive experience in international relations and strong diplomatic, communication and multilingual skills will also be required, and are essential for a mediator and crisis manager in an interconnected and diverse world."

"She or he should show moral and intellectual as well as political and public affairs leadership," the letter says.

It says there should be a "strong field of candidates ... that includes good representation by women and that reflects geographical balance."

By tradition, the job of secretary-general has rotated among regions.

East European nations, including Russia, argue that they have never had a secretary-general and it is their turn. There has also never been a woman secretary-general and more than 40 countries have expressed interest in selecting the first female U.N. chief.

The draft letter calls for an initial idea of candidates by next spring and says the council plans to begin the selection process during the summer.