15 October 2007

A Swiss official source indicated that former Secretary General Kofi Annan is now living in Rue Lagrange in the prestigious Old Town part of Geneva. The house is offered courtesy of a prominent Swiss Private Banker known for long-term cultivation of U.N. relations. We withhold his name, in turn, as a courtesy.

We mention this fact because of several inaccurate reports that Mr. Annan had bought a villa on Lac Leman closer to the Canton de Vaud -- that is the Lausanne district.

Now comes the news, from within the Secretariat in New York, that the outgoing Secretary General has just asked for regular protection by a U.N. Security detail. The immediate cause was not mentioned, though we were told from Geneva sources that Mr. Annan was booed and verbally insulted when he ran into a number of Middle Eastern groups.

No previous Secretary General had made a similar request. Don Javier Perez de Ceullar, who became Prime Minister and Ambassador of Peru in Paris, was often seen walking in Tribeca, or the Champs Elysees or Rue du Rhone, unescorted except by his beautiful wife Marcela. Dr. Boutros-Ghali moves briskly and alone in the neighbourhood of Rue Dominique, where he advises the Francophonie association. Bookstore visitors often sight him turning pages of old manuscripts and carrying his papers in a normal bag. Neither Annan -- who had been promoted by both of them despite his final split with BBG -- nor anyone around him -- who were similar beneficiaries -- offered either of them any such courtesy; not even a one man escort.

Surely, Mr. Annan has more reason to request detailed security. His term was more controversial and -- for a pleasant careful man -- he seemed to have made a number of adversaries, particularly during his disastrous second term. If he had personally neglected to antagonize someone, his hit team took care of it.

We fully support Mr. Annan's request. The head of Security should be the first to respond in the affirmative; he was appointed by Mr. Annan, who created a whole department for that purpose. A former Secretary General, who represented the U.N. in the eyes of the world for ten years -- whether good, bad, or mediocre -- deserves to receive every courtesy he requests. Furthermore, we never forget that Kofi Annan was once our colleague. Any physical threat to him is a threat to us. How a security escort would work out in Geneva is a matter which could be addressed by the specialists.

If, as we sincerely hope, the request is granted, we have a simple suggestion. Secretary General Ban may wish to contact Mr. Perez de Ceullar and Dr. Boutros-Ghali to -- at least -- offer a symbolic security escort.