UNITED NATIONS - Bahrain's first female diplomat, Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, will be formally elected on Thursday as the next president of the UN General Assembly, UN officials said.

Haya, a champion of women's rights in Islamic courts and one of the first two Bahraini women to practice law in her country, beginning in 1975, will succeed Jan Eliasson, the Swedish foreign minister.

The presidency of the 191-nation assembly rotates by region, with candidates put forward by UN regional blocs.

Haya's legal career has spanned more than three decades, focusing on diplomacy, international arbitration and dispute resolution as well as the status of women in the Middle East and in Islamic Sharia courts.

She has been an advocate of logical interpretation of Islamic texts as they apply to women in family courts, rather than on historical interpretations that may be damaging to a woman's status in such courts.

She heads her own law firm and is the legal adviser to Bahrain's Royal Court. From 2000 to 2004 she served as Bahrain's ambassador to France and as its nonresident ambassador to Belgium, Switzerland and Spain.