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Tharoor's Cricket-Gate Echoes at UN, Nepotism and Dubai Business, Faux Kofi

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- With former UN official Shashi Tharoor forced to resign as a minister in India, the Indian media has been seeking comment from all and sundry in UN headquarters. Shashi, charged with steering payoffs to a close associate in connection with a cricket team, has proclaimed that his time at the UN was without blemish. Is that true?

  In a word, no. Shashi bent the rules to get people jobs including people, shall we say, very close to him. As Inner City Press first reported, one of the people he got a job for is related to an Indian auditor who did the first, whitewashing investigation / cover up of what would become known as the Oil for Food scandal.

  From that, the Indian media wanted to know about Shashi's role in Oil for Food. Shashi's former colleague in the UN Department of Public Information, Ahmad Fawzi, took an Indian television reporter to task for even asking the question. He said he'd never heard of the favoritism hiring allegations on the UN's 10th floor. Fawzi is retired now, but he trumpeted the UN's line.

  Allegedly trumpeting, but probably falsely, was an online contributor call him - or her - self Kofi Annan. IANS in India reported at face value a posting by "Kofi Annan" defending Shashi and other Indian politicians. Inner City Press will venture this is a faux Kofi, a Faufi, to coin a word.

UN's Ban & Tharoor, with India's Ambassador, Gate(s) not shown, Octo 2009, (c) M.Lee

  Meanwhile Indian media in New York tried to track down the real Kofi, seen at UN Headquarters just the other day along with top Peacekeeping Alain Leroy.

   When Shashi lost out to Ban Ki-moon in his quest to become Secretary General, he went to work for a Dubai based firm that was seeking investments in India. Shashi made it sound like a social venture, even a nonprofit, which it decidedly was not.

  But this is not a crime. Nor is referring to coach class on an airline as "cattle class," even if you fly in the government's money and post the statement on Twitter. Arrogant, perhaps. But not a crime. As to Cricket-Gate, we'll see. Watch this site.

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At UN, As Ban Shakes Shashi's Hand, Shake Up Rumors Swirl

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 14 -- Three years ago, Ban Ki-moon and Shashi Tharoor were competing for who would follow Kofi Annan as UN Secretary General. After Ban prevailed -- one voter has written, because he didn't wake up saying he is"God's gift to humanity"-- Tharoor went into private business, then ran for office in India. He won, and was named Minister of State for External Affairs. Wednesday he came to the UN and shook hands with Ban Ki-moon.

  Inner City Press and a handful of other correspondents were shepherded up to the 38th floor to wait for the photo opportunity. You are not to ask questions, Inner City Press was told. This is only for photo agencies. Inner City Press pointed out that in the world of new digital media, the line between print and photo has blurred. There were no space constraints: upstairs were only UN Photo, UN TV and a single Indian photographer.

  A Ban staffer from India came in first, jovial, and asked that his photo with Shashi be taken as they were classmates at Tufts University. He was immersed today, he said, in Somalia, in restoring order. Other Ban advisers milled about in the hall, but Inner City Press was told it could not start video filming yet.

  Also present was the Chief of Office of the UN Department of Public Information, which Shashi used to head. In fact, Shashi reportedly brought into the UN the individual now the special assistant to the DPI chief that followed, Kiyo Akasaka: Jaya Diyal. Her father, in turn, is described by one insider as the "Indian Volcker," who help tamp out an early inquiry into the Oil for Food scandal. And so it goes.

  Suddenly Ban Ki-moon entered from a side door. "It's the Secretary General himself," Shashi said. They shook hands, the Ban staffer and Shashi classmate confined to the sidelines. The two men stood in front of the UN logo and the flashbulbs flashed. They made small talk.

  "Good to see you," said Ban.

  "Very gracious of you to send me those congratulations," Shashi replied.

  "You were elected then appointed," Mr. Ban recited. Inner City Press was tapped on the shoulder: it was time to go.

  At least permission was granted to go up. Recently when Sri Lanka's Prime Minister visited Ban, Inner City Press which arrived early was told it was too late. Too much coverage, apparently. Before its series about the Island of Blood, Inner City Press was let up to cover Ban's meeting with presidential brother Basil Rajapaksa.

   Wednesday one wondered at the topics of the meeting. India is said to be interested in taking over UN Peacekeeping. Other say that as party to a UN recognized conflict -- Kashmir -- such a post would not be possible. But that it only an unwritten rule.

  Visible in the run up to the photo op was current USG and chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. It remains rumored he may be sent out to the field, and another Indian USG sought for headquarters. Why not Peacekeeping? France only has the post, insiders say, because it traded its vote for Kofi Annan to the USG position. This is not even an unwritten precedent. Let the shake up begin, some say.

  First things first: in a dinner with South Korean legislators, Ban reportedly said he has no interest in the politics of Seoul, and does not want to be included in the polls. This was reported in the Korean press; Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson to confirm it, for a read out of the meeting. None has yet been given. Likewise, no answer as been given about what Ban will do on the nepotism case of his Congo envoy Alan Doss, who comes to town this week. In the absence of simple answers, rumors swirl through the now near empty building.

  Some say the speechwriting and communications director jobs may be split in two. Candidates for be the next Spokesperson are being interviewed, "very hush hush," a denizen of the 38th floor tells Inner City Press. Requests have been made for a briefing, never given, by the USG for the Department of General Assembly and Conference Services. USG for the Department of Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe, subject to much recent scrutiny, was more than polite by the stakeout. So was Mr. Nambiar's deputy, up on the 38th floor. But some say the knives are out. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

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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