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UN's Twenty Babies in Timor Leste and Atul Khare's Candid Hand, June 30 Elections

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 1 -- In Timor Leste, the UN is there "to heal and not perpetuate, whether through bad driving, intake of alcohol" or sexual abuse. So said UN envoy Atul Khare on Friday, answering Inner City Press' questions about a damning report in the Australian Age.

   Mr. Khare said he has written to the publication's editor, but confirmed that his quote in the article, although taken from an "internal meeting," was correct. He also confirmed the figure that 20 babies have been born from "liaisons," as he put it, between peacekeepers and Timorese women. In two of these cases, he said, paternity has been acknowledged and child support payments are being made. He said this is "voluntary, but we insist on it."

            Mr. Khare said he has an open suggestion box, both electronic and physical. (The latter can be contrasts with a suggestion box on the UN's third floor for the press, a box with a slot so small that few suggestions could fit inside.)  Displaying a candor that is too rare among recent UN envoys, Mr. Khare described repatriating two UN peacekeepers, for losing of weapon and unspecified  "clear misconduct," and of accepting the resignation of another, for drunk driving.

    Mr. Khare said he has a zero tolerance policy -- again that buzzword -- and not only for sexual exploitation and abuse. The Age article discussed the UN's use of brothels, an issue not addressed Friday by Mr. Khare. Also, The Age has used photographs of UN peacekeepers and children (with faces looking away from the camera). It is not clear if Mr. Khare or anyone else in the UN System raised this issues to The Age.  Nor is it clear what the UN System's policy is regarding the use of photographs of children, including on UN websites.

Peacekeepers in Timor Leste, per The Age

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Khare two rounds of questions, here from Minute 22:18 and here from 31:28.  Afterwards Mr. Khare asked Inner City Press, "Can you come to Dili for the June 30 elections? We want the international media to come."  While Inner City Press expects to run reports from Timor Leste during that time, Mr. Khare stands among those UN envoys who appears to honestly advocate for "their country," while not downplaying or concealing the difficulties, including of the UN system itself. We'll have more on Timor Leste.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540