1 August 2003
NOW SHE'S AN EXPERT ON IRAQ:
A woman of special interest to the Director of the Secretary General's office has now been placed
in the special office handling Iraq. Only three years ago, the young Indian was merely working at the
U.N. Development Programme until she was discovered by Mr. Riza who helped getting her promoted to
a D-1 regular post as Focal Point for women, that is, in charge of ensuring that deserving
women are appointed on their own merit and through their own hard work. The urgently required
appointment was made on the rightful claim that a full-time woman had to be placed in charge of
that priority issue. Apparently, advancement of women could now wait a while. Although little is
known of her experience in Iraq, the Middle East, or peacekeeping, she has been urgently planted in
the office of the Special Advisor on Iraq, the very decent and experienced Rafeeuddin Ahmed. Possibly
Mr. Riza would like to keep tabs on what's going on so he in turn will report accordingly. Or possibly
he would like to accommodate that particular woman by widening her experience and enriching her
portfolio. Who cares, except that the U.N. is facing so many questions about its role; the last
thing it needs is giving an impression that the plight of Iraq is being used to place favourites.
WHO IS LEAKING IN BAGHDAD?:
While Paul Bremmer was visiting Washington, items appeared in some Arab media that the American
special envoy in Iraq was being recalled for good and will be replaced by Ambassador Wolf, currently
an emissary between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Daily "Al-Hayat" published a front page
story by a correspondent in Baghdad, reporting "a political coup" deposing Bremmer of his
overall authority. A Lebanese local paper had carried a similar, though shorter version.
The leak was obviously inspired by a recent international source in Baghdad which seemed to be feeding the
correspondent statements and interpretations presumably reflecting the views of the new U.N. team in
Iraq. The leaks turned out to be wrong. Mr. Bremmer was received warmly by the U.S. President and
senior congressional leaders who confirmed renewed confidence in his mandate. Since, unlike the U.N.
Secretary-General, he receives a factual press feedback, he may be interested in finding out who
leaked the story against him. An indication that it was duly noted came when the reporter of the
same paper "Al-Hayat" in Washington wrote a piece stressing that there was no intention of changing
Mr. Bremmer in the foreseeable future. If anything, the change may be where the leak came from.
SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO GENEVA:
The longest serving Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. in New York will be transferred to the similar
post in Geneva. After seven years of making effective work and visible impact, Ambassador Michael
Wehbe who underwent heart bypass surgery last year, will have the opportunity of chairing the
Security Council for the month of August and leave as his country gives up its two year membership in the
Council. Syria's pivotal role in the Arab region plus his own good standing at home,
never allowed him a moment's
rest. Despite his delicate health, he was constantly trying to be everywhere. His Deputy Faisal
Mekdad is likely to take over early September.
WHAT? NO WINDOWS?
The new head of World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Lee Jong-Wook has shocked his staff
by opting for a windowless office. The Financial Times reported it with some amusement, but senior
staff are amazed. News travels far and fast when it comes to administrative perks. What would more
junior staffers do? Standard practice proclaims that the higher you get, the more windows you
you acquired. Three windows for a mere Director, four for a Super Director. An Assistant
Secretary-General, let along a head of Agency, gets the full treatment. And here comes Dr. Lee
to turn his back on the window system. What is he up to? His predecessors enjoyed possibly the most
prestigious view in the world -- on top of an exclusive hill overlooking the Mont Blanc, Lake
Geneva, the Saleve mountain chain, the manicured gardens of Avenue Budet all the way through
Cointrin airport to France. He must be claustrophobic, some nervous "functionnaire" started to
whisper. Otherwise, something must be afoot -- a "complot" hatched sneakily to deprive them of
their windows. Maybe they should have a word with the doctors.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADIBA:
Africa's greatest leader Nelson Mandela celebrated his eightieth birthday with well wishers around
the world, reflecting on how he had affected their lives. Madiba, as he is known to friends,
received tributes from the Queen of England as well singers, artists, athletes and ordinary
people. One of the most symbolic came from Wilma Verword, granddaughter of Apartheid Prime
Minister Federic Verword, who sent Mandela to jail for twenty years. She sent him drawings of
balloons and roses saying: "You changed my life to the better. You taught me to love all people
and all colours."
WHEN IT RAINES:
In an interview with Charlie Rose, former N.Y. Times Managing Editor Howell Raines expressed
disappointment because many of those who shared his vision in the Grey Lady did not speak out when
he was forced to leave. Little did he recognize that those who were telling him on every occasion
what a great innovator and bold thinker he was were at present now telling the same things
to his successor. And it isn't only in New York. Its everywhere. When it "raines," it pours.
TREVOR BACK IN TOWN:
Former National Public Radio correspondent at the U.N. Trevor Rowe has returned to New York as a
spokesman for the World Food Programme. He had gone to Rome initially for a fixed term period of
transformation from a free-spirited reporter to a free-spirited international officer. It was good
to note that he maintained his cheerful sense of humour and lost some weight -- possibly as part
of a campaign to divert the food for the less fortunate. He is reviving old friendships and as
usual, building new ones.
NOW HE TALKS:
None other than Saddam Hussein's former Information Minister has made comments on Uday and Qusay.
Al-Sahaf told Abu Dhabi TV recently that "Uday did some things that antagonized cross sections
of Iraq society." "Sons of officials should not be that way," he said, adding that during the
war, certain "engagements in the Baghdad region were wrong and led to losses -- the late Qusay
was behind that."
BOUTROS-GHALI ON AL-JAZEERA:
For two hours (as opposed to five minutes), former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali
responded to questions by Al-Jazeera TV on the U.N. role in Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and
the future prospects of the Middle East. Typically blunt and sharp-witted, he displayed his conceptual
approach in defending a basic role for international community in rebuilding a new world order
(or disorder). He averted several openings to criticize his successor. Towards the end of the
interview, and after persistent questioning, he hesitantly let on that Kofi Annan was "weak."
Boutros-Ghali is spending much time in Paris, with an office in the Secretariat of the Francophonie
which he headed for five years until succeeded last year by former Senegalese President Abdou
Diouf. Those who worked with him in New York will recall his keen interest in the "Blue Books"
about U.N. success stories. The series -- which was picked upon by then U.S. Ambassador
Madeleine Albright -- was stopped immediately after Kofi Annan took over. Any visitor to the
former Secretary-General will find out that the "Blue Books" continued in another colour as
Boutros Boutros-Ghali remains the same.
Where else would the President of the Security Council help serve the Paella? Marichu, a tiny
family style restaurant owned by a former Spanish diplomat and her German husband, celebrated
its ninth year across from the U.N. Friends and colleagues mingled as usual in a jovial
atmosphere, sharing a taste of exquisite Basque food and the hospitality of the friendly couple.
Spain's ambassador Inocencio Arias, a playwright and actor, as well as an accomplished diplomat
who presides over the Security Council, showed his true colours of modest confidence and loyalty
to friends when he volunteered to help the hostess serve the special Paella. Marichu is a favourite
luncheon hangout of certain diplomats and Secretariat staffers who share its limited space,
regardless of rank or function. U.S. Ambassador Negroponte, British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock,
Irish Ambassador Ryan; German, Spanish, Latin American, Portuguese diplomats spread like a
mini-U.N. among the tables enjoying a limited selective menu. Marichu looks more like a private
party than a regular restaurant, attended mainly not by regular clients but by loyal friends who feel
that loyalty is a two-way street. Bravo Marichu.
A perennial pillar of international civil service. Benon Sevan, who headed the Food for Oil Programme
over Iraq will be leaving by November. Although his contract runs until January of next year,
Benon told the Secretary-General that he is ready to leave earlier, after serving over thirty years
rising from the professional ranks to the post of Under-Secretary-General. A workaholic by necessity,
he spent weekends and weeknights at work to occasional, yet understanding complaints by his wife
Micheline, a colleague who will also be leaving soon. Benon's former work as head of Conference
Services and Building Management is now shared by one Under-Secretary-General and three Assistant
Secretary-Generals. Good Luck, Benon.
RESIGN? TO WHOM?
In an interview with Al-Hayat/LBC Satellite TV, Yemen President Ali Abdalla Salah gave his own
interpretation of why many heads of the state in the Arab world do not seem inclined to leave office
easily. He said he was willing to give his post to Egyptian President Mubarak or Saudi Crown Prince
Abdalla "if Arab unity was achieved." When asked why would he not just resign after 25 years in
power, he answered sarcastically: "Resign to whom? To Amr Mousa (an Arab League Secretary-General)
or to U.S. President Bush, who runs today's world?" Well. How about to his own people?
Quotation of the season was made by U.S. President George W. Bush after visiting Goree Island in
Senegal, the point of forced deportation to life in slavery:
"In the struggle of the centuries, America learned that freedom is not the possession of one race.
With the power and resources given us, the U.S. seeks to bring peace where there is conflict, hope
where there is suffering, and liberty where there is tyranny."
An anointed "expert" lost his way in the desert and, deperate for water, started seeing mirages.
He staggered along for days, through miles of oppressive heat, until he met someone who offered
him a tie. "I need water," the appointed expert announced, "water before anything else. If you
want me to advise you, water is a prerequisite to my role." As the man could only offer neckties, the
expert continued his weary trek several more days until he reached a spring surrounded by a fence
protected by guards. He introduced himself as an international functionnaire as he dashed towards
the water. But the guards stopped him saying he could not pass through without a tie.
IT'S ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE:
More than half the people living in least developed countries -- 718 million or 11 percent of the
world population -- are unable to earn more than one dollar a day, according to a report submitted
to the Economic and Social Council meeting in Geneva. That means total failure of a plan launched
in 2001 supposedly to improve below poverty levels. It was stated that AIDS/HIV, national debts,
and rich countries' subsidies to their farmers were among the main obstacles. It is interesting to
note that a country like Mozambique which reportedly has oil reserves explored by international
conglomerates is listed among those who had less income than earlier years when oil was not yet
discovered. Could it be that not all income is going into the national treasury? Last year a
report by the International Monetary Fund questioned the disappearance of about $5 billion, hinting
it went to private pockets of senior officials. Maybe the Economic and Social Council should stop
discussing unimplemented plans and focus on good governance. Otherwise, they might as well just
enjoy the view of Mont Blanc from Lake Geneva. Meanwhile, reports indicate that $37 billion a year
is spent on perfume and pet food. Japan spends $2700 subsidizing each of its cows while contributing
an average of $1.47 per inhabitant of Africa. Europe pays $913 per cow and $8 per African.
A "PIG" RETIRES:
Making a farewell speech on the retirement of Salim Lone, Media Director in the Department of Public
Information, Shashi Tharour borrowed a standard story usually told by Kofi Annan on a conversation
between a hen and a pig on how to help overcome world hunger. The hen proposed laying eggs while the
pig will provide the meat. For the hen, it was a valuable contribution, to the pig it was total
commitment. Amid laughter, the jovial Indian turned to his Kashmiri/Pakistani/Kenyan colleagues to
say: "it's a terrible thing to say to a Moslem; you are a pig." Far from being offended, Salim Lone
announced almost obsessively his exclusive and complete fascination with everything Shashi to
the point of quoting proudly a colleague he thought that his real love was neither his wonderful and
brainy wife Pat, nor his consuming work; his real love was Shashi Tharour. He was carried away by the
emotions of the moment that he acted out a conversation with the Secretary-General about a funeral
for Julius Nyrare, reaching out to place his arm around an amused Shashi who wisely and coolly pointed
him back to the microphone.
All was taken in good cheer despite a clearly emotional moment for someone who spent more time at
the office than at home. Before going into retirement, Salim Lone will serve for two months in Iraq.
He certainly knows that being a "pig" there may not be the best introduction. He may wish to explore
a different approach.
Clearly Naomi Campbell is a supermodel of undisputed beauty and a successful profitable career.
Little known is her enthusiasm for some causes for which she devotes time, effort, and personal
generosity (what does that mean?). Her adoration for Africa's most outstanding leader, Nelson
Mandela, is well known. The great leader naturally enjoys that delicious attention, treating her like
an adopted daughter. Recently during her mega birthday party in San Tropez on the French Riviera,
Naomi intimated that she had a secret hiding place for Saddam Hussein. Would U.S. Secretary of State
Colin Powell volunteer to find out?
WHY ASK ME?:
Secretary-General's press encounter following his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin
Powell, Washington, D.C., 14 July 2003.
Q: Can you tell us how you feel about all of these reports about the intelligence on the uranium from
Niger? Do you feel that the international community was misled? Do you feel that the other evidence
of weapons might also have been tainted?
SG: Well, I'm not sure I have much to add to that. As you know, this was an issue that was discussed
in the Security Council and the head of the [International] Atomic [Energy] Agency, [Mohamed]
El Baradei at the time indicated that the documentation was fraudulent. And I think the Council dropped
it there and we didn't take it any further.
Q: Do you feel that the American intelligence now should be examined on other issues?
SG: I would say that there are discussions going on now and the Government, the leaders in Washington,
are discussing it and I will leave them to review that topic.
Q: Have you been told that there will be no decision today regarding (U.S. troops for Liberia)?
SG: Well, we haven't discussed when the decision would be, but I know that the issue is under
consideration and I hope the decision will be coming shortly, and I hope it will be positive.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you think it's time for the United States to hand over the reconstruction
and the political rebuilding of Iraq to the United Nations?
SG: There is quite a bit of discussion going on and there are many countries that have indicated
they would feel more comfortable participating if the operation had been under a broader U.N.
umbrella. Whether the Member States would revisit the issue with the U.S. is something that only time
SNOW TRUCKS IN JULY:
Danish troops stationed near Basra soldiering in the exceptional July heat of Iraq were
surprised to receive from home a supply of snow trucks and snow melting equipment when what they really
needed were air conditioners and possibly some Danish bread.
A man in charge of eradicating drug abuse seems to have his own high expectations. Opium production in
the notorious Golden Triangle region of Asia is expected to drop sharply, according to Antonio Marie
Costa of the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. He went on to predict "within years" he will
be able "to close" the century-old chapter. How high can you get?
HIS EXCELLENCY THE PARROT:
A seasoned diplomat was reminded recently of a story by Mexican Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz about
some distinguished officials behaving like parrots, merely repeating what they had been taught to
remember and proclaim. When the colourful parrot in the adorned glasshouse once announced
atypically a serious policy directive, the diplomats turned to it and said, "Excuse me, your
Excellency, but I thought you were a bird."
AN AFRICAN WELCOME:
During the African Union Summit Meeting in Mozambique, South African Presdient Thebo Mbeke thanked
the Secretary-General for the appointment of Professor Ibrahim Gambari as his Under-Secretary-
General dealing with Africa. That sentiment was endorsed through the applause expressed by other
The Secretary-General reflected the feeling of the international community when he issued a statement
saying that he was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the former
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, philanthropist and lifelong friend of the United
Nations. For more than three decades, Prince Sadruddin was engaged in the work of the U.N. for human
rights, humanitarian, environmental, and cultural causes. He led the Office of UNHCR at a
particularly challenging time, during the war that led to the birth of the People's Republic of
Bangladesh. Prince Sadruddin served the U.N. in many other capacities, including as Personal
Representative of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Assistance during the 1990-91 Iraq-Kuwait
crisis. Through his own Foundation, he worked tirelessly for the protection and improvement of the
environment, for cross-cultural understanding and for disarmament. The Secretary-General extended
his deepest condolences to Prince Sadruddin's wife, Princess Catherine Aleya Aga Khan, and to the
rest of his family. He joined the Prince's many friends around the world in giving thanks for
the life of this remarkable and deeply generous human being.