1 August 2003

U.N. photo opportunist in Lebanan, Steffan Demistura was so certain of getting the European post that the Secretary General's office started the process of appointing his replacement. The Italian/ Swedish meeter/greeter went after the job vacated by Miguel Angel Moratinos as Special Envoy of the European Union for the Middle East with misplaced confidence. He may have calculated that with Italy presiding over the Union for six months starting July, he will be a shoe-in. He would be placed there this time not as an Italian, since Italy has too many senior officials, but as a Swede. However, the Swedes had another candidate, an experienced Ambassador Lefler whom they presented to Senor Romano Prodi. The former UNICEF greeting cards pusher did not give up. He drew on his Italian "ceremonial" which did not seem to help. Some still remember his gaffe suggesting holding a Food Summit away from Rome which drew protests from FAO and a written denouncement from the Secretary-General's office. He tried to draw on his Middle Easter credentials but they were too limited. His mini-meeting/greeter colleague in Beirut could hardly help as he is not only more limited but has his own promotion to seek, having waited for over six years. Still not to worry - a story was leaked to the Lebanese press indicating that Demistura will replace Moratinos; there were only small procedural matters to arrange. An accomodating U.N. press officer attending a Davos gathering at a sea resort in Jordan confidently passed on that wishful thinking to some journalists. All that fell apart when the European Commission officially decided to appoint Marc Otte in the post. Belgian-born Ambassador Otte was a prominent member of a team led by Javier Solana, former Spanish Foreign Minister and the Foreign Affairs czar of the European Commission, who has his own vision of a substantive role in the Middle East. Otte has already started his mission to Beirut. You can bluff some of the people some of the time, but you can't bluff all the people all the time.