12/12/2002

New French Ambassador

In the French diplomatic tradition of sending to the U.N. some of their most experienced professionals, outgoing Ambassador Levitte will be replaced by Ambassador Marc de la Sabierre, Special Advisor to President Chirac. One of the farewell parties he gave at the Elysee while preparing to leave for New York was attended by former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who received a special greeting from the French President.

Unusual Wedding for Unusual Reporter

The irreverent reporter-writer-organiser Ian Williams got married in a bar. Amid jolly cheer from U.N. accredited correspondents, a multi-denominational ceremony was performed. Self-described atheists, Ian Williams, a Christian from Liverpool, was officially wed to Nora Ahmadova, a Muslin from Uzbekistan, as confirmed by a rabbi from New York. Only in New York and only through the U.N. could such a gathering occur: a curious crowd from various nations exchanging jokes with varied accents celebrating the third wedding of their utterly irrepressible friend.

Return to Beirut Photo Ops

After getting the point about the need to leave when his current contract expires, Steffan Demistura managed to obtain an extension. He was negotiating with the Italian Red Cross -- a prestigious post which would provide an appropriate exit from Lebanon. However, plans were put on hold for the time being. As is well-known, Demistura shared in evading U.N. staff rules by agreeing to employ the son of the Chef de Cabinet. He had also made unauthorized statements to the Italian press about the venue of the Food and Agricultural Organization's Conference which were publicly rebuked by an official U.N. statement. He will now hang around for more photo opportunities in Beirut.

Press Section New Chief

In a new restructuring of the Media Division, the Press Section is now headed by someone who had started there. Shirley Brownell, a former press officer who served as spokesperson to the General Assembly President from Africa, knows that area very well, gaining the respect and appreciation of her colleagues. She was placed elsewhere for awhile. Her consolation at the time was that she received a promotion to the D-1 level. Her new move was lateral. Now she can fly with her two wings. Good luck Shirley.

French Press Unit Post

With the retirement of Hubert Pincon, the French press unit is searching for a new chief. That process will take months. In the meanwhile, daily operations will be run as always by the magnificantly efficient Josephine Danielson, who is everywhere when a job needs to be done but stays in the background when credit is claimed.

"Abu Faras" Blix

The arrival of U.N. inspectors in Iraq coincided with the fasting of the month of Ramadon, where revelers usually stay up late at night in social gatherings until their early dawn meal before another day's fast. A popular game in Iraq is called "the ring" -- Al Muhaibis -- where men compete in finding out through investigative approaches in whose hand the ring is hidden. As that seemed similar to the task of the investigators leading members of the U.N. team were given local names of champion ring searchers. Thus Hans Blix was dubbed "Abu Faras." IEAE Mohammed El-Barandei, an Egyptian, was named after the number two: Abo Jessim.

Chief Television Post Frozen

It is always risky to keep a post unfilled for more than a year. The question will then arise as to whether it was essential in the first place. That is what happened to the post of Chief Television and Radio (D-1), accorded after elaborate maneuvers to Professor Carlo Sartore, an experienced pillar of Italian RAI, who was perceived by many as overqualified for that particular job. When he was approved over a year ago, some qualified insiders like Steve Whitehouse, sought assignments elsewhere in the field. However, since the amiable Professor will not be showing up after all, it is very likely the post will be frozen under new "reform" proposals. Aspiring staff will have to await another opportunity. Sorry Randy.

Eckhard Extended Beyond Retirement

The contract of the Secretary-General's Chief Spokesman Fred Eckhard who reached retirement age was recently extended by one year, according to well-placed sources. Cool calm and collected Fred had worked closely with Mr. Annan at Peacekeeping Operations and gained a solid reputation of professional credibility with journalists covering the U.N.

Refugee Chic

Italian Fashion designer Georgio Armani was appointed "Goodwill Ambassador" for the U.N. High Commission for "Refugees to raise public awareness and funds" to help 20 million refugees. Ruud Lubbers, the High Commissioner for refugees, explained that senor Armani was chosen "because of his contribution and efforts to ease the refugee crisis in Afghanistan." That should be news to the Afghan people, very few of whom can afford to buy his t-shirts.