ROME, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) — The choice of former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres as next chief of the United Nations (UN) was a "superb" one, current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said here on Thursday.

Ban made his remarks on the sidelines of a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

"I know Mr. Guterres very well, and I consider him a superb choice," Ban told reporters after the meeting.

Ban recalled Guterres' "long and outstanding service" as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a post he covered from 2005 to 2015.

"He showed deep compassion for the millions of people who have been forced from their homes, and he worked around-the-clock to mount effective operations to come to their assistance," Ban said.

His past experience as Prime Minister of Portugal, his wide knowledge of world affairs and his lively intellect will serve him well in leading the UN in a crucial period," the secretary general added.

Guterres, 67, would take over from Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 1, 2017. The former Portuguese socialist leader was tipped as new secretary general of the UN on Wednesday, after the 15 members of the Security Council held its sixth straw vote.

His name was chosen among a list of 10 candidates, with 13 countries supporting him and none discouraging him.

Guterres' formal appointment then came after a vote held by the General Assembly on Thursday, which confirmed the Security Council' s recommendation.

Ban said he was sure his successor would "carry the torch on the full range of key challenges, from strengthening peace operations to achieving sustainable development, upholding human rights,and easing humanitarian suffering."