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On Obama vs. Osama, UN's Ban Says Bombs Away, Some Opine, Second Term in Mind, Questionless Town Hall Meetings

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 5 -- Less than 12 hours after Barack Obama was elected as US President, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon summoned the Press to transcribe his congratulations, noting that he has put in a request to speak personally to the President-elect. But what would Ban say? Inner City Press asked Ban for his response to Obama's statement that he would bomb Pakistan if he knew Osama Bin Laden was there, and whether between now and January 20 he will try to get the US and Pakistan on the same page on such strikes. Ban said, "I would refrain from taking any position on the part of United Nations on any specific issues involving questions which you have raised." Video here, from Minute 12:22; UN transcript here.

   Afterwards, a South Asian diplomat groused to Inner City Press that Ban could have answered better.  To some, Ban's answer can be contrasted for example to the two previous Secretary-Generals' approaches to the US. Kofi Annan called Bush's war on Iraq illegal under international law; Boutros Boutros Ghali's criticism of the US led President Clinton to limit him to one term.  Those who conclude that when the time comes Obama will want his own Secretary-General will see Ban's dodging of questions about Obama's statements and actions as an attempt to win a second term.

Ban Ki-moon, between two flags -- second term not shown

   Ban recounted meeting Obama on a shuttle flight between New York and Washington in February 2007. He recognized me as the Secretary-General, Ban marveled. One wag, remembering Ban's story that he met and chose his Deputy Secretary General by similarly meeting her on a plane, muttered regarding Obama, did you ask him for his autograph?

  A senior advisor to Ban stayed in the UN hallways after Ban had left, communicating to reporters that Obama "is a UN person." But is he a Ban person?

Footnote: Ban Ki-moon's communications are criticized even by those close on his team. Following his speech to senior staff in Turin, in which in a phrase some called disastrous Ban said "I tried to lead by example but no one followed," Ban held what was described as a town hall meeting with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. As relates to communications, he declined to take any questions. "Some town hall meeting," more than one DPKO staff said afterwards. Others groused that Ban's speech was strangely tone-deaf on peacekeepers' issues, given this his then-speechwriter is the girlfriend of a DPKO Assistant Secretary General.

  Later on November 5, at least prior to his now-planned trip to Kenya to meet Presidents Kabila and Kagame of the DRC and Rwanda, Ban is scheduled to hold another town hall meeting, this time with the Department of Public Information. While the Press will in all probability be excluded, the question is, will he take DPI's questions, or will the focus be on finding who might leak descriptions of his communicative performance?

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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