Larsen Investigated; Not By UN
Reports in Scandinavian papers that Terje Roed Larsen, UN Coordinator
for the Middle East, is under investigation for possible financial
violation, did not seem to be noticed by the UN. Claims that he
and his wife received about $100,000 from the Shimon Peres Foundation
without reporting it to the Norwegian government have been circulating
for awhile. Recent reports stated that his wife, Norway's ambassador
to Israel, might get the brunt of the official review. No one
at UN headquarters seems interested in exploring exactly what
happened. Roed Larsen is a senior diplomat, and holds a key position
dealing with major conflicts. It may be worthwhile to probe whether
the reports are just a "Roed Herring" or is there more to it than
meets than the eye of a Nobel Prize operator.
Excuse Me, Your Excellency
A newly appointed ambassador recalled a passage from a novel
by Mexican author Octavio Paz, in which a parrot startled a newcomer
with expressions of impressive yet repetitive self-importance.
"Pardon me, your excellency," the man says. "I thought you were
Bungler in Beirut
Most heads of state attending the Arab summit in Beirut had suites
at the Hotel Vendome, except Secretary General Kofi Annan, who
stayed at the Phoenicia. Every meeting meant the inconvenience
of moving with a motorcade and entourage just a few hundred feet,
while others met openly or discreetly simply by taking the elevator.
It transpired that the Lebanese hosts actually offered Mr. Annan
a suite in the Vendome. They felt it was more respectful and practical.
He is highly regarded there. However, his representative, Steffan
Demistura, decided that the elegantly decorated rooms at the Vendome
were "too small" for the Secretary General. All suites are similar
in size, at least for heads of state. The hotel's owner, who was
in London at the time was so certain Annan was there that he sent
him a personal welcoming note inviting him and his wife to visit
again any time. The letter apparently fell into the hands the
bungler in Beirut, not to be forwarded or acknowledged. Incidentally
the Secretary General, who had to return immediately to a Security
Council meeting in New York, flew back on a private jet offered
by Prime Minister Harriri.
New Iranian Ambassador
According to an Iranian source quoted in the daily Asharq Al
Awsat, Hussein Moussayan, former ambassador to Bonn and special
advisor to former president Hashemi Rafsanjani will replace Iran's
permanent representative in New York, Nejad Husseinien, this summer.
In political terms, that may be interpreted as an indication of
where the influence really lies, and possibly open a new channel
of communication with the U.S. by previously reluctant powers.
UNIFIL Spokesman Remains
After an announcement that Timor Goksel, UNIFIL spokesman, will
be transferred, he is remaining in South Lebanon, albeit discreetly.
Talks regarding his move to Afghanistan did not materialize. He
has about 16 months left before retirement, and seems to be popular
with all parties on the ground. Regardless of what reports indicated,
he is likely to remain where he has been over the last two decades
as part of the terrain.
New Old Greek Representative
A former Deputy Permanent Representative of Greece will return
in the top post. Andreas Vasilakis, who spent the last five years
in Brussels as representative to the European Community, took
over the mission in New York. His outgoing, socially active style
earned him a wide range of friends during his previous posting.
He now has a new chance to accumulate even more achievements for
the great Hellenic culture. Welcome back.
A year-old project finally found its way to the UN website. The
"UN Works," which stresses the relevance of the organization's
work in everyday life, was encouraged by deputy Secretary General
Louis Frechette last year, in an effort to provide practical substance
to visitors and ordinary citizens from around the world. A campaign
on subways and buses during the millennium assembly served as
the formal testing ground. After protracted internal arguments,
the project was on and off, then on again. Now it appears under
a new heading on the website. Congratulations to Mahbub Ahmed
and his team. Better late than never.
Kingdom of Bahrain
A new decree proclaimed the state of Bahrain an "Arab Islamic
kingdom independent and sovereign." The head of state will become
a king, and shall be addressed as "His Greatness Sheik Hamad Bin
Issa Al-Khalijah, King of Bahrain." Before its independence in
1971, Bahrain was a British protectorate whose "sheik" becomes
the "emir" of the newly created state, established by a UN mission
that supervised a referendum and ensured that Iran withdrew its
claims. The island-nation will become the smallest kingdom in
the world: 620 kilometers, with about 400,000 citizens.
First UN Ombudsman a WOMAN
A senior Jamaican diplomat has been appointed United Nations
Ombudsman; a newly created position designed to help UN staff
raise matters of concern. Ambassador Patricia Durrant, who has
been Jamaica's representative to the UN since 1995, who will serve
as Assistant Secretary General, will have her hands full. During
a period of change and uncertainty for many staff, not always
well handled by senior administrators, there will be many justified
complaints. Durrant will work independently, and under strict
confidentiality concerning matters in her purview. She will have
direct access to the Secretary General, and to staff records,
except for records of ongoing investigations and medical information
not available without the express request of the individual. She
may consider conflicts related to employment by the UN, including
benefits, conditions of employment, managerial practices and professional
and staff relations.
A Finn to Replace Robinson?
The UN's number one supporter in comparative budgetary terms
may finally receive a post. The consistent contributions of Finland
to every UN field, from development to peacekeeping, have been
thus far ignored, possibly due to the selfless approach, which
silently expects appreciation, while becoming a sacrificial lamb.
The dynamic, experienced and popular ambassador, Marjetta Resi,
plays a prominent role in every serious meeting, yet as a true
believer in the working of the organization, she makes her points
correctly, elegantly and with good cheer, allowing some administrators
in the Secretariat to conclude that it may be time to relinquish
their doubletalk and get on with a wider allocation of the most
senior post. It may yet happen. Meanwhile, there is speculation
that when Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson leaves
this year, former Finnish president and senior Secretariat official
Marti Ahtisaari will replace her.
Deputy Spokesman Located
The Spokesman's office still shows signs of missing Manuel de
Silva e Alameda, who left for the Afghanistan mission. After a
thorough review, Fred Eckert has decided on a new deputy, a Chinese
national with wide media experience, including an international
assignment with the BBC.
Joseph Connor, the American Undersecretary General for Administration
Management, is a dominant powerhouse. He controlled administrative
policy and implementation, including a stream of budget cuts.
A shadow of himself ten years later, he is preparing to leave
by year-end. Many of those whom he left without jobs in a foreign
country do wish him well in his second retirement. His first was
from Price Waterhouse, of IMIS fame. Despite differing views,
Connor was always courteous and correct. But you don't get to
a top managerial accounting job by running a popularity contest.
Press Freedom Day
An impressive reminder that freedom of the press needs continued
effort was displayed at a seminar sponsored by DPI on World Press
Freedom Day. Deputy Secretary General Louis Frechette made impressive
opening remarks and Jim Ottaway of the World Press Freedom Committee
gave a typically precise overview of the challenged ahead, while
confirming the commitment to face them. The forum was mediated
by Shashi Therour, interim head of public information.