UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Chile's former president Michelle Bachelet is the front-runner to head the new U.N. agency to promote women's equality, several U.N. officials said.

When the General Assembly voted unanimously on July 2 to put four existing U.N. bodies dealing with the advancement of women under a single umbrella with more clout, Bachelet was immediately tipped as a possible leader.

But Bachelet, who left the presidency in March after four years with sky-high popularity ratings, initially told U.N. officials she didn't want to lead the new entity, to be known as "UN Women," because she wanted to remain active in Chilean politics, the officials said.

In recent weeks, however, she apparently changed her mind and is now at the top of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's list, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks have been private.

Asked Friday about Bachelet getting the job, U.N. associate spokesman Ari Gaitanes said: "In line with our usual practice with recruitment matters, we have no comment to make as the recruitment process is not yet complete."

For many years, the United Nations has faced serious challenges in trying to promote equality for women around the world because of the lack of funding and the lack of a single high-powered spokesperson and agency to pursue action.

Many women's groups have been lobbying behind the scenes for Bachelet because of her high profile and her success in improving Chile's economy and international standing.

Other prominent women have also been mentioned as possible leaders including Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. special representative for children in armed conflict; South Africa's first black ambassador to the United States Sheila Sisulu, who works for the U.N. World Food Program; and Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo.

The highest-ranking official currently dealing with women's issues is Assistant Secretary-General Rachel Mayanja, who is Ban's special adviser.

The General Assembly resolution states that UN Women will be led by a higher-ranking undersecretary-general, to be chosen by the secretary-general before the next General Assembly session, which begins on Tuesday.

One of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals adopted by world leaders in 2000 is to promote gender equality and empower women.

According to the resolution, the "United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women" — UN Women's official name — will work on policy issues, provide assistance to U.N. member states that seek it, and promote and monitor the U.N. system's actions to promote the advancement of women.