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1 December 2003


Several questions were received about the identity of the real "nowhere man" at the United Nations. Meanwhile, the lyrics of the song with John Lennon's handwriting on a piece of paper were sold in an auction this month in New York. "He's a real nowhere man; sitting in his nowhere land; making all these nowhere plans for nobody" is followed by "Doesn't have a point of view. Knows not where he's going to." Someone paid $45,000 for it. Could it be a personal friend of you know who? Maybe the winner could at least have a photo opportunity at a U.N. lobby where that dim Bulgarian television fellow would get to hold the camera and point it in no direction at all?


A convention against corruption was adopted by the General Assembly and member states were called upon to sign it...in Mexico! Surely Mr. Shevardnadze of Georgia would have wanted to be amongst the first to sign were it not for a popular uprising which diverted his travel plans. Other similarly inclined governments will certainly be in the forefront of any photo opportunity to display their determination to stay the course. The U.N. office that most noisily advocated and applauded the convention, that of Anti-Drug and Crime in Vienna, was accused of widespread corruption by one of its resigning senior staff. The former head of that office had to leave under a cloud of accusations -- and after an official investigation.


At great expense, paid by a willing U.N. "Fund For a Better World," Arabic speaking U.N. press officers were brought from the field to participate in a discussion on how to improve the deteriorating U.N. image -- including that of the Secretary General -- in that region. For three days, there were exchanges of views, side contacts as "voices from the field" were evaluated by observant representatives of the Fund. A general outcome was known: the need for another meeting particularly in the region. That farsighted decision was enthusiastically applauded. However, during the last day there was a thorough serious and heated debate in a meeting limited to those working in Information Centres. No report was issued on the main points. One would wonder why?


A reporter for a Kuwait daily "Al-Qabas" spotted Naji Sabri, Foreign Minister of the fallen Iraqi regime, in Qatar's capital Doha. Immediately upon the fall of Baghdad, Sabri was known to have found refuge in Austria -- where he was once posted -- in the hospitality of Jorg Haider. His resurgence in Doha will be interesting not only because the Central Command of U.S. forces in Iraq is based there but also due to the mediating role that Qatar's Foreign Minister loves to play between various contradictory parties. Sabri may not have much useful information as he was not really a part of the decision making leadership. However two neighbouring countries are puzzled, if not totally upset: Kuwait, whose Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Sabah was unceremoniously slandered by Sabri just before the war; and the United Arab Emirates whose highly regarded ruler was the subject of rude abuse heaped upon him by the then Foreign Minister for inviting Saddam Hassein to leave power so that the region could avert a war. But then the Emirates has another of Saddam's ministers, the guru of ridiculous "information" Mohammed Said Al-Sahhaf.


New York professionals dealing with setting up special events, injecting the name of their clients in a newspaper article or getting them to the right parties are wondering why all of a sudden the Mission of Singapore to the U.N. is seeking to employ one of them. For a long while, the work of that small yet efficient country in New York was limited to its U.N. surroundings plus an occasional dip into social life. It seems the current ambassador is preparing a build-up for some future venture where he needs the help of New York social and media public relations professionals. Now, what would that be?


After about three years, a chief was appointed for a joint TV/Radio Section. As predicted, it was a professional woman from outside (sorry Steve, Richard, and Andy). Those who worked with Susan Farkas professionally give her high marks. Her assignment at the U.N. however will be quite different from the private field. A well established multinational team with proven credentials can only be led by an inspiring professional whose heart is in the right place and whose mind is open to mutual exchange of ideas. We are told Susan has these attributes. Welcome to the U.N. -- and good luck.


A reporter who accompanied U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense to Iraq reported that he was keen on finding out the real thinking of some specialists from the region. One of those whom he had received in Washington and introduced to some of his staff was Ghassan Salameh who was described as a former Lebanese Minister of Culture. Dr. Salameh, a professor and distinguished intellectual also happens to be a special consultant for the U.N. on Iraq; fortunately he was saved by a miracle during the criminal bombing of U.N. Headquarters there. Presumably, he gave Dr. Wolfowitz the same advice he gave the U.N.


Canadian Finance Minister John Manley has been designated as its Permanent Representative to the U.N. replacing Ambassador Paul Heinbecker who will be leaving slightly ahead of an average term. Apparently, the new appointment was in advance of a new governmental team with a changing Liberal party leader. Any other changes among Canadians at the U.N.? One in particular is being mentioned by the gang that doesn't shoot straight. They have her in their sights and she's a convenient scapegoat. Could a governmental position however junior in the new Cabinet of Paul Martin next spring provide an exit?


A quip by the Financial Times ending a thoughtful comment on fathers handing over authority to their sons may provide food for thought to some U.N. senior officials. The British international daily mainly mentioned two personalities: Rupert Murdoch allowing his son a greater role to prepare him for the succession and Azerbaijan President Haidar Aliyev who made sure his son Ilham succeeded him - in a popular election of course. There must be something in the genes which may qualify a sibling to follow in the footsteps of a concerned father, but as a general rule, it smacked of nepotism if not entirely illegal.

As is well known at the United Nations over the last fifty eight years, it is a violation of the rules to employ father and son or wife and husband unless they had worked there before wedding. Now look around you and count. Or, to be more accurate, look up and count.


A week after actress Angelina Jolie received an honorary award at the U.N. for her service among refugee children, she was a subject of controversy. Her newest film, "Beyond Borders," where she befriends a gunrunning agent posing as a relief worker was thought by leading relief agencies as portraying the wrong image and indeed endangering the lives of real workers in real aid operations. A review in the New York Times described the film as "superficial -- a liberal video game that demeans the very refugees it tries to spotlight." Where have you gone, Ruud Lubbers?!


The Executive Officer who served four different heads of the Department of Public Information, Olu Oduyemi has left for Geneva. His replacement is yet to be decided. Many applicants, mostly aspiring for a promotion to D-1, are competing. They include Oleg Astapkov, who had started his professional career in that Department reaching the number two spot at the Executive Office. He is now officer in charge. There are also some capable female candidates. It is only fair that the selected person should be someone with whom the head of Department will feel at ease; who could be trusted to give honest advice while maintaining a smooth connection with the Department of Administration and Management. May the best man or woman win.


Martina Hingis and Jacques Villeneuve co-signed a one page appeal in support of the effort to combat poverty. In a one page ad, sponsored by the U.N. Development Programme European Office, both declared their support for projects in Latin America and Africa aiming at cutting poverty in half by the year 2015. That is part of the Millenium goals set by world leaders but, unfortunately, not effectively followed through.


Reporter and Columnist Ian Williams has now found his match in the family's newest arrival. His wife Anora Mahmudova gave birth to a baby boy at 4:16 a.m. Monday 10 November. Anora had no anesthetics and no surgery. The baby -- Ian Anton Norbek Williams is healthy and reported by his parents to be happy -- almost as happy as they are. Congratulations. As fellow reports may recall, Ian and Anora were married last year in a Manhattan neighbourhood bar, which was closed for the occasion. The Christian groom and Moslem bride were blessed by a Rabbi.