Guatemala leader asks UN to extend mandate of anti-graft body

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales on Monday asked the United Nations to extend the mandate of a UN-backed anti-corruption body in his country for another two years, officials said.

Morales -- on his first visit to the United Nations' New York headquarters -- made the request for the extension of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) in a meeting chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a UN statement said.

"The secretary general welcomed President Morales' intention to extend the mandate of CICIG until September 2019 and looked forward to continuing cooperation in the fight against corruption and impunity," the statement said.

The CICIG was instrumental in bringing down Guatemala's previous government last year.

Morales' predecessor, Otto Perez, is in jail awaiting a decision on whether he will face trial on charges of being part of a ring of officials that took bribes in exchange for letting businessmen avoid paying import taxes.

The CICIG, working with Guatemalan prosecutors, revealed the corruption ring, triggering months of demonstrations calling for Perez's ouster.

Morales, formerly a television comedian, was elected president in October and took office in January.

He has vowed to curb corruption in his country and has said he views the CICIG as central to that struggle.

The anti-corruption body has a two-year mandate that has been renewed four times since it started work in 2007.

Morales started a week-long visit to the United States over the weekend.