15 September 2010
WORLD WAR Z:
What else could those specially selected "messengers," "envoys," or "ambassadors" designated by the U.N. Secretaries General and Agency heads
do to embarrass the U.N.? Reportedly, the current favoured couple is Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Ms. Jolie's latest movie, "Salt" is a violent
depiction of spying, treachery, and murder, not exactly the role model type sought to reflect U.N. principles and objectives. To top it further,
her husband (until further notice) Brad Pitt has now agreed to star in a movie entitled "World War Z" depicting world destruction after a war
with Zombies. Adding insult to injury, Pitt plays the role of a U.N. officer.
"What though the radiance which was ever so bright.
Be now forever taken from my sight.
Though nothing can bring back the hour
of Splendour in the Grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind."
-- William Wordsworth
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark is lying low these days. Some reports early in the year about her potential candidacy for the post of Secretary
General aroused suspicion about her "loyalty" which she apparently has to prove by reporting very little about any accomplishment by UNDP, if there are any.
Actually, very little is displayed by UNDP leadership and even less by its field offices which, together with U.N. Information Centres, used to
form the backbone of U.N. productive field presence. What a pity that a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, a reported strong feminist, cannot
stand up to little characters pretending to "protect" Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
When President Zardari of Pakistan, whose popularity poll had gone down to 25%, decided to travel to England in the aftermath of a hurricane
flood costing millions of Pakistanis their homes and thousands their life, there was an understandable uproar. There was unanimous criticism by
media, politicians, and millions asking where was their President at their time of traumatic need. Mr. Zardari, however, took it all in stride. He
dismissed the uproar about his absence easily with a twist in its interpretation. It indicated, he explained, that he was "so wanted." Indeed.
Just ask the Swiss banks.
GAMBARI SURFACES BRIEFLY:
Our distinguished brother Ibrahim Gambari finally surfaced at U.N. Headquarters, but only for a few days. He briefed the Security Council
on Darfur, where he is trying his best as usual but receives neither the required support nor the deserved appreciation. A former Foreign Minister
of Nigeria, a University Professor, and Permanent Rep to the U.N., Gambari is one of the most highly regarded intellectuals in Africa. His role in the
eventual election of an African to the post of U.N. Secretary General was widely recognized. He has devoted his energy to serving the U.N. Secretary
General, while keeping Africa proud by his sterling performance. He gave a party at the DH Library Penthouse in honour of his compatriot, the
Nigerian Ambassador to Washington, whose plane was cancelled -- and train delayed. Gambari soldiers on, as gracious and attentive as ever.
A recent visitor to Stockholm found former U.,N. Legal Counsel Hans Corell as dynamic as ever. Having served for more than a decade as
Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Corell made U.N. history on more than one occasion, like drafting the complex Lockerbie arrangements with
Libya, and the consensus on searching Presidential Palaces of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Fortified as always by the company of his wife, the beautiful
Inger, he uses his niche in Kungholmen (the King's Island) in the Swedish capital to write, prepare lectures, and welcome former colleagues. He is still
active on the Kenya mediation team headed by former Secretary General Kofi Annan and sits on the Board of several academic and international
institutions. Bra Hans.
New Secretary General's Spokesman Martin Nesirky is a communications professional caught between insiders who think he should know better and outsiders
who believe they could do better. His delicate challenge is from outsiders/insiders, transient outsiders who happen to be within the inner decision-making
process; that is, those who are neither here nor there. Confidence and access to the Secretary General are crucial. It seems that gradually, Nesirky
is edging his way with closer access to the person that matters most, his immediate boss, the Secretary General. He managed to overcome the unwise
decision by some Security Council members to keep the Spokesman's Office away by indirectly escorting the Secretary General to meetings. He is
trying hard, earnestly and professionally. He would need all the help he can get.
FICTITIOUS DEGREES TOO:
"Assistance to the Palestinian People," a UNDP operation, was already floundering from internal bickering and external pressure when UNDP
Administrator Helen Clark announced the appointment of Beat Rohr of Switzerland as its new head. Hopes were raised that at least the
Palestinian people would get some kind of real development assistance. It turned out that the declared education qualification of Mr. Rohr, "a Ph.D.
in Management from Pacific Western University in Los Angeles," was really fiction. The so-called University had been investigated as a "Diploma Mill" --
issuing diplomas upon request -- and had to close down! Its name was changed to avoid further embarrassment to the U.S. educational system -- but
apparently no embarrassment to UNDP.
Considering that for the last couple of years, the Secretary General's Special Representative Ould Abdallah never dared to visit his ostensibly
host country, it was an act of courage and political symbolism for the U.N. Under-Secretary General Lynn Pascoe to visit Mogadishu following
recent violent events. It was equally important that he was accompanied by the new Special Rep Augustine Mahiga. The fact remains, however, that the
U.N. approach to the situation in Somalia had become part of the problem rather than the solution. The officially recognized President, Sheikh Sherif, a
former Islamist leader, does not control much except his heavily guarded residence, and even that was proven doubtful when some of his guards
planted a bomb under his podium, partly because they had not been paid for weeks while politicians pocket assistance funds.
Rising star Eric Felt continues to rise. Less than two years as a D-2 (Director) in the Department of Public Information (DPI), he was selected
by the new Director General of UNESCO as Assistant Director General for External Relations. Considering the fellow he will replace, a creepy
operator who happens to be a former Yemeni diplomat, the only way Eric Felt could go is up. Anyway, DPI staff gathered in a wholesome,
affectionate, reluctant farewell, short on long speeches and long on pun and fun, led by the experienced communicator, Juan-Carlos Brant, who in
an earlier incarnation had worked as a Spokesman for Secretary General Perez de Cuellar and Dr. Boutros-Ghali. Our Venezuelan friend had taken on a
similar task during the farewell party for Ahmad Fawzi, only this time there were additional audiovisuals so well done internally that they received
unanimous applause, particularly for the Swedish language, straight-face descriptions attributed to Eric. On descriptions, Under-Secretary
Akasaka tried to pick from Google some descriptions of the French in general and Frenchmen in particular. For a while it was unclear where he
was going (certainly not to Paris!), but finally managed a gracious farewell exit. The last remaining DPI Director, the formidable Paula Refolo, was also there.
For how long, we'll soon find out.
RAIN AS EVIDENCE:
Judge Daniel Bellemore, Special Tribunal for Lebanon Prosecutor, broke his silence -- very unwisely -- by giving what he must have thought was a
candid sincere convincing interview. Our distinguished Canadian did not realize that with nothing new to say, his appearance through website
"Now Lebanon" -- a professional journalistic site, but perceived by some parties in Beirut as "Hariri Now" -- would merely complicate his
presentation. Unless he intended to stir a controversy, although that is doubtful considering his solid performance thus far -- his responses
were interpreted differently by different groups. Of course, conspiracy theories abound, though additional ones are always welcome in fertile
territory. Anyway, some sarcastic remarks noted his analysis of what he illustrated was conclusive evidence. "You want to prove that it rained
today. You prove that the pavement is wet, you prove that there was nobody who cleaned the street. In itself each of these facts does not mean
anything, but if you put them all together you can conclude at the end of the day that it rained." Well, suppose someone deliberately threw a pot
of water on the pavement and nobody bothered to clean it up that day -- like what may happen in the streets of Beirut, Paris, or Montreal for that
matter, would rain really be the culprit?!
After the Hummus and Tabouleh wars came the dessert. While the Palestinian people are suffering between a corrupt administration in Ramallah, a
hot-headed dogmatic group in Gaza, ruthless right-wing Israeli militants, and aggressive settlers in the occupied territories, a group in Bethlehem
found time to bake the largest Kataefi dessert in the world. The Guinness Book of World Records witnessed the event as people harassed daily by so
many parties found time to assemble and smile over an irrelevant but relatively joyful event.
AL-JAZEERA DRESS CODE:
If it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit in New York, it must have been 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Doha, even in an air-conditioned studio. Yet
Al-Jazeera female announcers had to adapt to the new "decent" dress code issued by an Islamist harassment expert. It was a pity to see
these beautiful gracious women meekly wrapped up from head to toe, shoulders and hands fully covered of course. We will not mention names, but a once
predominant announcer looked pathetic as she was trying to soldier on. During these difficult times, when women come originally from a fractured
Baghdad or tense Algiers, she would need the tempting salary to survive. Needy female announcers are being cajoled into "macho" submission while
no one outside seems to care.
Usually it should be the other way round: advisor wanted. This time however it is the newly-appointed Military Advisor to the Secretary General
who is wanted. General Babacar Gaya, former Chief of Staff of Senegal's army, is the subject of an international warrant issued in 2008 by French
judge Jean-Wilfred Noel, following a complaint by families of French victims of a ferry boat sinking, known as the Joola disaster, when 1,863
people died or disappeared, including 22 French nationals. However, the Secretary General's U.N. Office insisted that General Gaya "led a long
and brilliant career." That's how you win confidence around the world, let alone finding out how the advisor will be able to travel around in his
new post if he is internationally wanted. Again, no one seems to care.
JIANG ON MISSION:
Chief of Press Service Jiang Hua has just accepted a six month field assignment in Sudan. She will be working with Special Representative Haile
Mankarios. A former Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary General when Fred Eckhart occupied that post, Ms. Jiang has the experience and
professional skills to assume relevant posts at Headquarters and the field. It is repeatedly said that mobility is a new pre-requisite for
promotion. So, while she will keep her New York post, it would be a welcome step if after her return next year, she would be considered for a vacant,
more senior post.
"Watch the video, take the quiz; be an instigator, become a fan." What is it all about? We don't know. Some young woman in East Hampton, Long
Island, seemed very keen on "Hornitos" -- whatever that would be. Eventually, a keen young man obliged.
Our great communicator/self-promoter/U-2 lead singer Bono is widening his grip. After gaining fame a decade ago for persuading the U.S.
Treasury Secretary to travel with him to Africa, with impressive results, he has now reached out to Russian President Dimitri Medvedev. A suitable
P.R. photo showed the two of them pensively walking along the quai of a sea resort around sunset. No interpreter shown.
BONO NO BEUNO:
Sorry to hear that our friend Bono is not feeling well these days. Back trouble we're told. You know, all those goodwill trips to huddle with
African chieftains, American millionaires, and European wannabees do have an impact, with age. He had planned a concert tour for the U-2 band for September,
just in time for when dignitaries visit the U.N. General Assembly sessions, and a two-day "summit" on "Development Goals." But then, the concert had
to be pushed out until next spring.
NEWSPAPER OF RECORD:
"Everything is possible. Through Hummus we can achieve so much."
-- Majdi Wadi quoted by the New York Times
"Dave drowned. So at the funeral we got him a wreath in the shape of a lifesaver belt. It's what he would have wanted."
"Why did the chicken commit suicide? To get to the other side.
YOUR HEAD EXAMINED:
Would you ever notice if you were shot in the head? Some apparently don't. A Polish man just discovered that a bullet had stayed in his skull
for five years but couldn't remember when. Apparently he was drunk when it happened; when he woke up he did not feel anything abnormal. It was only when
he dropped by for a general check-up that he was told. These days, perhaps we should all have our heads examined -- just in case.
A RAMADAN STORY:
Two men were lost in the Sahara desert. One is Bob, the other is Michael. They were dying of hunger and thirst when they suddenly came upon an
oasis, with what looked like a minaret with a mosque in the middle. Bob said to Michael: "Look, let's pretend we are Muslims, otherwise we'll not get
any food or drink. I am going to call myself "Mohammed." Michael refused to change his name, he said: "My name is Michael, and I will not pretend
to be other than what I am...Michael." The Imam of the mosque received both well, welcomed them, and asked about their names. Bob said: "My name is
Mohammed." Michael said: "My name is Michael." The Imam turned to the helpers of the mosque and said: "Please bring some food and water for
Michael only." Then he turned to the other and said: "Salaam Alaikum Mohammed, Ramadan Mubarak!"
By the time we come out in mid-September, Lisa Buttenheim, newly-appointed U.N. Special Representative in Cyprus, would have made her way to
Nicosia. Her husband, our distinguished colleague Jean Claude Aimee, former Chief of Staff for Secretary General Boutros-Ghali, will be joining
her after both take care of housing details on both sides of the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Meanwhile, we forgot to ask Lisa how would she handle
an added complication in her already difficult assignment: the obnoxious Alex Downer and his "Bespoke" conflict of interest. Then again, perhaps we
don't need to ask. The lady is much tougher than her gentle feminine looks.
"This Korean dresses very flamboyant but he can't match John Daley in the trousers department."
-- BBC Radio Five Live
During one of those summer holiday nights in the Hamptons, a usually discreet diplomat in a jovial mood told about the difference between
"confidential" and "confident." Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was a very dedicated man who badly needs good advice; of that the ambassador was
"confident." To succeed, however, he will need to get rid of Mr. Kim. That, His Excellency added, was "confidential."
Don't hire anyone you can't fire.
Having returned from Cairo, former Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali is undergoing regular treatment at a hospital in Paris. It obviously
bothers a workaholic who firmly believes that being always busy is some kind of mental relaxation, but our stubborn chief is being
out-stubborned by determined doctors who insist on a thorough medical review. We wish him speedy recovery. Bissalamah Inshaallah.
Anna Tabijuka, head of U.N. Habitat should have read the tea leaves when her female compatriot Asha-Rose got appointed as Deputy Secretary
General in 2007. Instead of leaving graciously, she started to lobby for an extension even when it was clear that the new Secretary General did not
care much for her style of leadership, particularly when he took away part of her authority over Nairobi and gave it to the influential German
Director of UNEP. She even went pleading with the ineffectual Chef de Tandoori who could hardly protect his own turf. Now that she realized that
a replacement was in the works, she pulled an Ahlenius by sending and leaking an angry letter to Mr. Ban. Tabijuka has been useless from day
one -- when Kofi Annan appointed her out of political expediency. Now she's pleading to stay longer -- or else! What else? What nerve!
The Chef de Tandoori was spotted huffing his hurried way to ECOSOC chambers where his boss was holding forth to delegates about his recent
accomplishments. Perhaps not recognizing the Chef's stature, someone at the door told him that the meeting was for delegates only. No problem.
Tandoori just puffed his way back.
Probably because the relatively new Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka does not come from his country's trained diplomatic ranks, he does not
seem sensitive to perception by his neighbours. At his apartment of residence, the former Secretariat Legal Officer staffer gives the impression
of fake pomposity, although those who know him assure others that there must be a misunderstanding. In one of the latest incidents, a formally
dressed British-accented older man attempted to push his way to a neighbour's apartment. Despite being repeatedly told that he was knocking on the
wrong door, the man kept trying to push the door open exclaiming: "Oh, dear; Oh, dear." It wasn't clear what or when he was calling but it
annoyed the neighbour enough to call the building security. After wandering around pushing doors, he was found by one of the many Sri Lankan
hangers-on and led to their "master!"
The man looked very much like Paul Volcker, the $30 million investigator of Food-for-Oil, waiting for a Madison Avenue bus on 50th Street. When
the imposingly tall, pensive-looking banker realized there was no seat available, he slowly moved to the rear of the bus, as suggested by the driver on
a loud speaker and kept towering above everyone else until the Limited stops bus arrived at his destination. None of the other passengers seemed to notice
amongst them the senior Financial Advisor to the U.S. President. Impressively unassuming, he could have finished off Kofi Annan's career. Yet, unlike
those pompous nobodies around the former Secretary General, he just moved along like a regular New Yorker with confident ease.
Shashi Tharoor's third wedding. No hard cover is expected. Just a soft paper invitation emailed to guests, as follows:
"I am writing to convey to you with joy -- while I realize you may perhaps have learned this already from our media, though I have not confirmed
it publicly -- that I will soon be marrying Sunanda Pushkar.
The wedding will be a quiet family affair at my crumbling 200-year-old ancestral home in a Kerala village on August 22nd. The reception is to
be held in Delhi, on 3rd September. Softcopy of your invitation is attached; kindly RSVP at your earliest convenience.
It would mean a lot to me to have your good wishes for this major personal step in my life. I have lived through a great deal of unrest in the last
couple of years, and the prospect of being able to have a real home at last, with a woman I love and wish I had met many years ago, will only
strengthen me in facing the challenges of public service that lie ahead. Given the short notice necessitated by the Kerala political calendar, I
hope you will treat this as more than just a "save the date." We will be unable to send a card via snail mail.
With warmest regards,
It's not only the U.N. Secretariat that's going downhill. UNESCO is following suit. Its "envoys" list is even worse, mostly rich
visitors to Paris seeking to show off an award or title. That was the specialty of Yemeni operator Ahmad Sayyad, whom Mr. Kimura had
appointed as Assistant Director General for External Relations, mainly because the Japanese Director General had won over a Saudi diplomat. When the
new UNESCO chief took over and got rid of Sayyad, it was hoped that such embarrassing ploys will be discontinued. However, apparently Ms. Irina-Bokova is
merely changing the individuals, not the habits. The Bulgarian former Foreign Minister uner the Communist regime, whose father was editor of the main
party's authorized newspaper has decided to celebrate the accomplishments of...Naomi Campbell. We were informed that the universally designated
Queen of Mean and Angry Tantrum (MAT for short) will receive an award from UNESCO on 30 October at a grand gala in Dusseldorf for her "charity
work"! It is not clear whether that will be Sayyad's last "hoorah" or Bokovo's first gaffe.
"Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George," a very British title, was given in the 2010 Queen's honour list to Edward Mortimer,
a former Financial Times' reporter who served Secretary General Kofi Annan first as speech-writer then as "Communications Director." With the departure
of his boss, Ed was parked as "Senior Vice President of the Salzburg Global Seminar." Few outside London are aware of what a "Companion" really does.
Perhaps, to use one of Ed's favourite expressions during the futile defence of Food-for-Oil, it is someone who "leaves no stone unturned."
A welcome decision by the Secretary General to appoint Farhan Hag as "Acting Spokesman Ad interim" to replace Marie Okabe could have been more
fair if it was not so qualified with limitations. "Acting" and "Ad interim" after a vacuum of three months when Mr. Hag was indeed "Acting" and
"Ad interim" smacks of indecision and -- quite bluntly -- discrimination against a very qualified person who has loyally and professionally done his
best to face very difficult situations when others were more concerned with covering their backs. While it took at least a year for the "38th
Floor" to dare replace Ms. Okabe who had support of Japan's government, why is it so unforthcoming towards a devoted international civil servant who
happens to come from a poor country whose government has neither the will nor the influence to back him?!
A slight correction for the record. During a press conference on Monday 9 August, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took credit for creating the U.N.
Ethics Office on Accountability. When he added: "Can you believe it?" no one responded. Several of those with institutional memory recalled that in
fact it was Kofi Annan who initiated that office in January 2006, ONE YEAR before Mr. Bank took over.
There was a lot of fanfare in the Spring at the interim pre-fab U.N. Headquarters during a meeting where Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, whom
some U.N. official insisted on calling the Duchess of New York. The Secretary General buoyantly chaired a normally routine gathering on social
questions as words of praise flowed through the conference room. It turned out that "Fergie" was on some sort of fund-raising campaign for herself,
rather than for the downtrodden of the earth. After being exposed by a reporter for attempting to cash in on arranging a meeting with her divorced
husband, she was firmly checked where it mattered most: Buckingham Palace. She needs to repay around $5 million of borrowed money. Perhaps some of
those at the U.N. who pompously shared the podium with her would now offer some practical support.
The internal crisis in Tajikstan -- and the plight of the Uzbeks -- did not detract the British and American ambassadors in Dushambe from
practicing wet diplomacy. Each of them pledged publicly that the one whose soccer team loses in the World Cup will jump fully-dressed into a public
pool. Neither won. With stiff upper lip, the British and his "Special Relationship" colleague from the U.S. kept their promise. That's how you
impress the downtrodden of Asia.
FROM BALI TO CANCUN:
They are really sweating it out, those hard-working environmentalist bureaucrats. The new Executive Secretary of the appropriately named UNFCCC,
Christiana Figueres, assured everyone (prematurely) after her first major meeting in Bonn (cool in July-August) that they made "real progress
towards deciding the shape of a successful result" and was very optimistic about a forthcoming meeting at the Mexican resort town of Cancun
(later this year when it will be freezing cold in Bonn and "cool" on the Mexican beaches!). Ms. Figueres was not yet on board when a similar
indication of "real progress towards a successful result" was revealed after a similar gathering of enviro-crats at the Indonesian resort of Bali.
A deadly clash between soldiers of the Lebanese army and an Israeli patrol cutting trees along the controversial Blue Line was reviewed by the
Security Council and drew reaction from governments and comments by media. However, no one noticed an action taken by the municipality of Bint
Jbeil, the regional capital of South Lebanon. The Agricultural section issued an official ticket against the Israeli army for violating the
"Convention of Forest Protection."
Vladimir: "Say something"
Estragan: "I'm trying"
Vladimir: "Say something at all"
Estragan: "What do we do now?"
Vladimir: "Wait for Godot"
He made millions out of peddling his political position. But Tony Blair is unable to find a place to sign his autobiography, "A Journey." A
political opportunist who shifted from close camaraderie with U.S. President Clinton on the "Third Way" to become known as a "poodle" for his
successor President George W. Bush on the war in Iraq, was pelted with eggs, tomatoes, and shoes when he tried to have a signature ceremony in
Dublin. While preparing to have one in London Wednesday 8 September, he was alerted to plans by varied groups to protest his presence and
disrupt his proceedings. He did not show up. His book is loaded with worn-out platitudes and phony claims of a righteous approach in the face of
evil. He has accumulated lucrative contracts for his plush office in Grosvenor Square, but he is unable to walk alone in the streets of London.
A sad exit indeed.
Reema Khalaf of Jordan has been mentioned as the most likely candidate for the post in Beirut to be vacated by Qatar's former Washington Ambassador,
Badr Al-Dafaa. Ms. Khalaf is a highly-regarded Arab intellectual, politician and grass-root civil society leader. Her proven experience as her country's
Deputy Prime Minister, Associate UNDP Administrator for Europe and the Arab Region, and Chairperson of the U.N. Democracy Fund, makes her even
over-qualified for that post of Executive Secretary for the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. She's been there, done that, years earlier.
She had turned down other senior U.N. posts three years ago, mainly because she sought to stay near her ailing mother. But Beirut is not far from
Amman. Anyway, staff in that region are hanging on a thread to hear any news about that post, now that it is clear that its current incumbent is
determined to leave without further delay.
A peacekeeper in Sudan who briefly spoke to a TV reporter was identified by his given name: Music. He may have been a Captain, but then, he
was made to sound like a Colonel. He was giving his views on Darfur and the need to be vigilant. It is not certain whether he is Nigerian or
Rwandan. Nigerians are known to love music to the point of using it for or against candidates in elections. Rwandans are known to have interesting
names. We still recall an official in Kigali who was called Immaculate. She certainly wasn't.
Congratulations to Maya and Ahmad Fawzi. A beautiful baby girl was born on 8 September. Luna joins her sister Bella in making a happy
international family even happier. The mother had worked at the U.N. Information Centres in London, where Ahmad was its distinguished Director
during a period when European Centres played a pivotal role in promoting the U.N. image. Ahmad retired last March as Director of the Media
Division, to whom no replacement has been found yet.
With Turkey presiding over the Security Council for the month, its President Abdallah Gul has called for a meeting on 24 September at the
Presidential level. One question is whether U.S. President Obama, who will be addressing the General Assembly a day earlier, would participate.
Last year, the U.S. presided during that month, and a similar level meeting was convened. There has been talk about tense U.S.-Turkish relations recently;
it could be an occasion to clear the air, confirm an aloof attitude, or take a position in the middle, like suggesting the attendance of Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton, who has been doing much of the substantive international moves recently. Another question is the attendance of France's
President Sarkozy, who will be speaking four days earlier at the MDG Summit, but left the General Debate address to his Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, who had never heard of a meeting he would not love to attend.
"I never learned anything while I was talking."
-- Broadcaster Larry King
Jihan Sadat, wife of former Egyptian President who was assassinated by an Islamist militant, appeared in a series of interviews with Al-Jazeera's
Ahmad Mansour. In the first three interviews, she stressed that she was very fond of
the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, despite the fact that her mother was British. So was her husband, whom she had married while she was
under the age of 18 and he was a rebel army officer. She repeatedly asserted eternal love before and after her marriage "and up to this day." She also
comes across as confident, open, very well informed and politically astute, averting several delicate issues while maintaining appropriate respect
for the interviewer and, of course, for herself. A very interesting witness to history.
A change of venue for a U.N. Senior Official retreat. Alpbach, as its name indicates, is a conducive quiet resort in the Austrian Alps -- quite different
in style and accommodations than the fictitious Staff College near Turin. Such gatherings usually allow for casual unfettered exchanges. We understand, for
example, that the most senior Chinese, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, responded to a suggestion for free
expression during a reception, saying some things "which were on my mind." He expressed initial dislike for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, telling
him openly: "You have been trying to get rid of me; you can fire me anytime; you can fire me today." The statement was leaked to an American blog by one
Orr another participant on the assumption that it would embarrass Sha and strengthen Mr. Ban's position with the U.S. That may prove counter-productive
for the Secretary General, who is openly seeking a second term and may not be able to afford to have stones thrown into that exclusive pond. The
best advice would have been that what happens at Alpbach stays in Alpbach.
A welcome electronic version of the Interdependent was introduced, issued regularly by UNA/USA under the editorial arrangement of
Dulcie Leimbach. The first issue contained editorials by experienced U.N. insiders and reporters, particularly one by "BC," the well-informed Barbara
Crossette, former New York Times U.N. Correspondent, who has evolved into an enlightened reference on U.N.-related matters. A very interesting venture.
SOMALI GOVERNMENT :
"On payday we have almost 20,000 soldiers. When there is a battle we can't find 100."
-- A Somali government official, quoted by the New York Times
In an appropriate, recent tribute, the General Assembly paid its respects to one of its most distinguished Presidents, Ambassador Samir Shehabi. His
impressive demeanor gave way at human interest moments to a warm colleague and loyal friend. In the traditional manner of solid negotiator, his word
was his bind. He cared for his profession, for the country he represented so ably, Saudi Arabia, and for the central role of the United Nations in
settling pressing international issues, particularly the long-pending conflict of the Middle East. He almost single-handedly formed an association
of U.N. Permanent Representatives which rotated after his departure from New York and upon retirement, was instrumental in forming another
distinguished group of former Presidents of the U.N. General Assembly. In recent years, he maintained his activities in varied areas, spending time,
with his precious wife, among Riyadh, London, and South Portugal, where he maintained a summer home. He will be remembered as a rock of reliability
and a real diplomatic star. May his soul rest in peace.