1 September 2003

BANGLADESHI CANDIDATE AS U.N. IRAQ REPRESENTATIVE:

Talk about "moslem troops" joining in Iraq if and when a formula is agreed in the Security Council on a U.N. "sponsored" force (as different from a U.N. peacekeeping one), brought about the possibility of selecting a U.N. representative from predominently moslem countries. Pakistan is not feasible if India is to participate; Turkey is complicated by the Kurdish factor in the North; Indonesia, the most populous moslem country, may participate but may not be keen on the possible internal headaches; Iran is unlikely. A candidate from Bangladesh is being mentioned. Yet their citizen most knowledgeable with Security Council matters and U.N. affairs, Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, may not be the first choice of the current government; and a candidate by the current government may not be that qualified. On the other hand, maybe Bangladesh would rise above local politics and present their best. Let's see.

ACABQ CANDIDATE:

Felipe Mabilangan, former Ambassador of the Philippines, is running agin for the membership of the Advisory Committee for Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). Having performed a responsible job, the amiable and well-connected internationalist hopes to get enough votes in November when the new composition will be decided by the General Assembly. His competition is from Iran and South Korea for the Asian seat -- two countries experienced at internal lobbying. Help for Felipe came touchingly from his wife who came out with the idea of printing a visiting card where his resume is summerized in main points: Ambassador to U.N., to Portugal, France, and China, as well as delegate to UNESCO in Paris and the U.N. office in Geneva. He was educated in the Philippines and England. Good Luck.

SIGN TO A VISITOR:

"Please don't think you are on another website the next time you come here."
From Lebanese website Sallini.com.

LISTEN UP, ALI BABA:

From an article by Steve Erlanger in the N.Y. Times of 24 August:
"Sergio and Nadia lived lives of sacrifice and substance. Their deaths both shame and mock the armchair warriors, the television show mudwrestlers, the pontificators, the manipulators, and the simplifiers. And their lives are a reminder that it is just possible to do some small good in this rank sorry blood-drench world."

GUESS WHO?:

During a meeting of senior officials, the Secretary-General's seat was unoccupied. A newly designated head of department dashed in, shuffling his hair hurriedly and sat on it. When told the seat was reserved for the Secretary-General, the fellow responded pompously that it was quite alright because he knew for certain the boss will not be attending. However, he was told very bluntly to get out of that seat which is reserved for the Secretary-General -- and he is no Secretary-General.

PRESS ENCOUNTERS OF THE PONDERING KIND:

Press encounter by the Secretary-General with the Associated Press before Security Council lunch, New York, 5 August 2003.
Q: What do you plan to discuss with the Council regarding Iraq?
SG: We need a decision to set up the mission, and normally it's done in a Resolution. So if they do it in a Resolution, well and good. I understand some are also talking of a letter, but we do need a decision to set up the mission.
I think it is also important that they say something about the Iraqi Governing Council. I mean, they came here and talked to them in silence. It doesn't send a very good message.

*****


Press encounter by the Secretary-General with the Associated Press after lunch New York, 5 August 2003.
Q: How was the meeting and what's going to happen on Iraq? Did you get some good feedback?
SG: Yes, I think my sense [is] that they will look at the question of a statement on the Iraqi Governing Council and the mandate for the establishment of the UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq]. And I would expect to get some decisions out of them.
Q: But a statement rather than a resolution initially.
SG: I think of the Iraqi Governing Council and its recognition as a step towards the formation of a sovereign Iraqi government, I think that may come out in a statement. But the establishment of the U.N. mission? We need a decision and it usually comes in the form of a resolution.
Q: Is there any big discussion on Iraq about the possibility of a second resolution expanding U.N. authorization?
SG: That came up. They know that there are discussions going on, but the membership are not ready to move on it yet. But there are discussions going on, but there was no ? it's not ripe yet.

GETTING TOO CLOSE:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the Security Council to relieve Carla Del Ponte as Chief Prosecutor for the Rwanda Genocide Court, while she maintains the same role regarding former Yugoslavia. Although it is done in the name of reform, some observers could not help but recall the many obstacles placed in Ms. Del Ponte's work mainly by well-connected individuals making sure that very little is uncovered. Some suspect that she was getting too close to some embarrassing findings. Rwanda is a very sensitive spot for Kofi Annan and the Director of his office Iqbal Riza, both of whom were directly in charge of peacekeeping during the Rwanda massacres.

AND MILES TO GO:

There were promises to keep, as Robert Frost's famous poem goes. Kofi kept them for as long as feasible. The young aspiring man from Ghana heading Personnel knew the young aspiring man from Guyana who served at the Appointment and Promotion Board. When Kofi became Secretary-General, he promoted Miles Stoby to the rank of Assistant Secretary General, moving him from one area to another until he settled on Conferences and General Assembly affairs under the overall supervision of an Under Secretary General. The grapevine has it that the newly appointed Chinese boss, an experienced ambassador who had served earlier in New York demanded a change. So Miles had to go. His wife Lyutha Al-Muzhairy will remain in the Department in Public Information and possibly expect a promotion to D-2 as a consolation prize. The charming Omani Lady has kept totally quiet about the closure in Europe of the U.N. Information Centres for which she was nominally placed in charge. Whatever her heart says, she keeps soldiering on. Possibly she knows more than the rest of us what's going on, but she only keeps smiling.

THE ABBAS, ABUS, AND ABBAS:

For years, the Palestinian current Prime Minister was generally referred to as Abu Mazen. Abu is a courteous Arab word meaning the father of the name that followed. When the Palestinian "Resistance" - Muqawama - flourished, leading members were known as "Abus," including "Abu Ammas," Yassar Arafat, who was unmarried and had no son. When the new Palestinian government was formed with an unprecedented Premier, the Arab press continued to refer to him as Abu Mazen, until word came from Washington that as of immediately he will be known by his real name: Mahmoud Abbas. Most likely it was a symbolic move to indicate the beginning of a new era where no code names or revolutionary titles would be required: only the first and last name will do. That must have come as a welcome move by U.S. Secretary Colin Powell. By sheer coincidence, one of his favourite groups is "The Abbas" -- any relationship is merely coincidental.

JUST ASKING:

As Africa's most prominent leader Nelson Mandela celebrated his birthday, messages from prominent well wishers around the world were announced. None, however, was reported from Kofi Annan, an African who became prominent when elected U.N. Secretary General seven years ago. Mandela has become a symbol of determined struggle against Apartheid and people's right of self-determination. He is also a shining example of tolerance, reconciliationi, and national dignity. He recently expressed his view against war in Iraq and left Johannesberg during the visit of the U.S. President. Could it be that Annan was too "careful" to send a message, or extra careful to send one but not announce it, or did Mandela receive one but did not make a point of it? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind -- which in turn will blow away those with P.R. inflated egos while the salt of the earth shall remain as firm as the ground.

A FINAL WORD:

Asked by reporters about the death of Sierra Leonean militant Foday Sankoh who was famous for offering a choice to his victims between cutting their hands long or short, Kofi Annan said that one should not speak ill of the dead and by wishing that Sankoh's soul rests in peace. He went on to say, however: "This is a man who terrorized his people and almost destroyed Sierra Leone. In the end, he died an indicted war criminal, a lonely and broken man." Amen.

HEAR, HEAR:

"I am stronger than some soldier turning his tank barrel at me. When I stand in front of him unarmed and in peace as I walk around my own city, I know that he is the weak one. Nonviolence is much more threatening to the occupation because it shows we are morally strong." Huwaida Arraf, founder of International Solidarity Movement as quoted in the "Independent" of London.

ANYTHING IN IRAQI DOCUMENTS?

One of the first things occupying forces did was seize tons of documents kept by officials of the former Iraqi regime. Leaders of Iraqi opposition made a point of going through many of them. A side effect was the resignation of the Director General of Al-Jazeera Television. The popular station had been persistently attacking Ahmad Shalabi who reportedly made a point of passing on the information that its main supervisor, Mohammed Saleh Al-Ali, was on the payroll of the former regime. For a while confidential reports in high level circles hinted about involvement of some U.N. officials in working with that regime. More embarrassing were indications of financial gains made indirectly, through former friends, compatriots, or relatives. Such information -- if proven -- will not necessarily be published. If may be used more effectively to obtain accommodating results.

SECURITY WITH A SENSE OF HUMOUR:

Those security officers discreetly and efficiently watching over visitors to the U.N. had a new feather in their caps. Most of them are known for their courteous professional approach. A recent letter to the New York Times by Diane Greene showed a blend of quick thinking and a sense of humour. Ms. Greene wrote:

"Working near the United Nations, my friend and I wanted to have our lunch in the beautiful park on its north side.

A large sign saying 'No Eating in the Park,' was posted on the gated fence, and standing at the gate was a gray-haired guard wearing a United Nations uniform. Hoping to slip by him, I cradled my brown-bag lunch in my arm, hidden under the daily newspaper.

The guard stopped us and asked very politely, 'Excuse me, Miss, what's in the brown bag?'

'It's my underwear,' I replied.

Without changing his expression or batting an eyelash, he replied, 'I'm sorry, Miss, but you can't eat your underwear in the park.'"

SALAME WARNING:

Days before the attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, Ghassan Salame, Special Adviser to the U.N. Special Representatives, told Parisian weekly Nouvel Observateur that "many influential Iraqis who felt initially liberated from a despised regime have assured me that they will take arms if the coalition troops do not arrive at a result." The interview drew wide attention. Reuters news agency which carried it commented that "he did not spell out which prominent Iraqis had warned of an uprising against the coalition."

RENE'S GERMAN:

German diplomats will have to be careful around Oscar winning actress Rene Zellweger, who was happily spending the summer in the Hamptons. A German couple who saw her at close range having her morning coffee in a neighbourhood shop remarked to one another in their language that she did not really look as smashing as in "Chicago." Ready to leave, she turned to them and said coolly in excellent German: You know I am not "super" in the morning. Chus.

NEGROPONTE IN SOUTHAMPTON:

A clear and concise review of U.S. priorities at the U.N. was given mid-August by Ambassador John Negroponte to the Council on Foreign Affairs in Southampton, Long Island. Drawing on his diplomatic experience around the world, the U.S. Representative to the U.N. reflected on the inevitable relationship, indicating how best to strengthen it within the framework of political strategy and national interest. It was refreshing to see a noted diplomat speak casually, freely, and with no attempt to spin. He wisely sidestepped an invitation by a French visitor to attack the social fabric of France. In a lucid brief response to a question, he explained the relevance of the United Nations to harmonious international relations. After the talk, the poised Negroponte met with members over drinks and patiently listened and responded to questions as he also graciously accepted compliments on an impressive talk.