15 January 2005

The discreet Under Secretary General for Political Affairs may have been preparing for his next assignment -- discreetly. Rumoured to be taking over the post previously occupied by Terje Roed Larsen, Sir Kieran was not saying anything and -- when asked -- the Secretary General evaded an answer without denying it, saying that the name was listed "amongst others."

There were indications that the senior British official was preparing for his Mideast assignment. A mission was sent several months ago to the region from his department to review the role and scope of the current and future office. Headed by Geir Pederson, head of Asia and Pacific division, the team proposed, among other things, the addition of another Assistant Secretary General post. Thus the Under Secretary General heading the Mideast mission would have two ASGs, one already in Beirut. The other would be based between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. With the departure of Larsen, Pederson, who is also Norwegian, could hope for that post, which he himself proposed.

Sir Kieran had served as U.K. Ambassador to Israel before joining the U.N. He also served in Turkey which is emerging as an active mediator in the region. Naturally, he is familiar with the issues -- Security Council Resolution 242 was prepared by Britain. (Sir Kieran may mention that, as a young diplomat, he helped in the drafting.) It is also noted that Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed a special conference in London and has been active recently in exploring ways to move a peaceful settlement forward. A noted British diplomat under U.N. flag may be able to establish bridges and gain inner access to all key players. With his discreet approach, and a special sense of humour, he may even make some headway where the outgoing envoy failed.

The latest word, however, is that such an assignment has been blocked by some influential circles and that Sir Kieran is likely to go, but not to the Mideast.