EGYPT'S minister of state for foreign affairs, Boutros Ghali, has announced he is a candidate for secretary-general of the United Nations.Speaking to a small group of reporters here, Dr. Ghali said Saturday that President Hosni Mubarak agreed to present his candidacy to succeed Javier Perez de Cuellar, who steps down at the end of this year. Seen as potentially a strong contender, Ghali joins five other Africans who have officially entered the race. No African or Arab has ever held the post. Ghali, a lawyer by training, said he was offering his candidacy to take advantage of "a unique opportunity for Egypt, now in the limelight" after playing a leading role in the coalition ranged against Iraq in the Gulf crisis. He said he thought he had "chances of support" from other member countries of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), citing his 30 years of work on African affairs, his role in mediating disputes between African countries, and his standing as the dean of African foreign ministers. Ghali also played a major role in negotiating the 1978 Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. It is not clear, however, that he can win enough OAU support against black African candidates running. They include Zimbabwean Finance Minister Bernard Chidzero; former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo; Ghanaian UN official Kenneth Dadzie; former Ugandan Foreign Minister Olara Otunnu; and James Jonah, a senior UN official from Sierra Leone. Ghali said the African countries would present a slate of candidates rather than one name to the UN Security Council, which chooses the secretary-general. "We'll have a list of five or six or seven Africans and ask the Security Council to make its mind up," he explained. "That way it will be difficult for them to say that none of the seven has the necessary political profile for the post." He said he did not think the post should go automatically to an African just because no one from the continent had held it before. But, he asked, "why not an African representation, if you can combine capability with geographical origins?" Though the Egyptian minister enjoys the advantage of coming from the Arab world, he is not a Muslim but a Coptic Christian. Asked whether he thought this would be a drawback in the eyes of other Arab countries, he said he hoped it would instead be "a chance to show how liberal we are in this region."