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At UN, Alleged Sanctions-Violator Galbraith In Line for Afghan Post, UN Jabs and Hides

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 17 -- As the UN refused for the second straight day to confirm it is considering controversial American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith for its second-highest post in its mission in Afghanistan -- it declined to back up its claim that March 16 Times of London story breaking the news was "factually inaccurate." On March 16, Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe said that

the story characterizes the relationship between the United Nations and the United States concerning Afghanistan wrongly. When the Secretary-General met with President Obama last week, the President spoke highly of the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Kai Eide... The article is not only factually inaccurate but also counterproductive of the United Nations efforts, together with the international community, to bring peace and stability to the long suffering people of Afghanistan."

  That an article may be "counterproductive of the United Nations efforts" is not a basis for the UN to publicly criticize it. We'll see if the UN ends up appointing Galbraith as the UN's Kai Eide's deputy in Afghanistan -- the Washington Post reports the posting as a done deal, in service of U.S strategy.

   Inner City Press had asked senior UN officials to confirm or deny that Galbraith was being considered for the UN's panel to investigate the murder of Banazir Bhutto. One senior official, always a good source, responded coyly that Galbraith is in line for another UN post, which he would not name. Now it appears to be in Afghanistan. Inner City Press on March 16 asked Ms. Okabe

Inner City Press: on this Galbraith question:  the issue surrounding his role in, essentially, violating United Nations sanctions and bringing in Iranian weapons to Bosnia during the Balkan war.  Was that something that was looked at by the United Nations before considering him either for the Bhutto panel or for this post?  And this [inaudible], what’s the United Nations, I guess, response to those -- what many in Congress… you read the article.  The article says he can’t be confirmed by Congress because of that issue.  So he’s being foisted on the United Nations.  Are you aware of that issue?

Deputy Spokesperson:  You’re talking about an appointment that we have not made.  And we’re… I was just [interrupted].

Question:  If you make it, will you then respond to this public issue that involves [the violation of a UN sanctions regime]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond the fact that the regular appointment process is ongoing.

    On March 17, UN Spokesperson Michele Montas declined at the noon briefing to provide any specifics about the factual inaccuracies that the UN so publicly alleged. Is the UN denying that Galbraith will get the post? Or only that he and Eide don't get along? While some say Galbraith introduced Eide to his wife, that's not the crux of the issue. To Inner City Press, the issue is whether the UN can blithely give a DRSG post to an individual widely characterized as having violated UN Security Council sanctions. 

Peter Galbraith in Croatian, UN sanctions and post not shown

  Before the UN announces any appoint of Galbraith, consider the New York Times' 1996 report that Galbraith

"turned a blind eye to the smuggling of arms from Muslim countries -- including Iran -- to the Bosnian Government. Mr. Galbraith has been accused of everything from going beyond his instructions to running a covert operation... too close to a Croatian leadership often assailed for its treatment of minorities."

    See also,

"State Department documents, some of which were obtained only under threat of congressional subpoena, and CIA memos suggest Galbraith was more instrumental in the arms transfers than he has admitted, government sources familiar with the investigation said. Investigators also suspect a link between the 1993 Iran-Croatia arms deal and Washington's decision a few months later, at Galbraith's urging, not to block Iranian arms to the Bosnians.

Galbraith developed a close relationship with Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak after taking up his post in June 1993, and the two met regularly, including over meals at the ambassador's home. Susak was anxious to get sophisticated weapons the Iranians could provide, especially surface-to-surface missiles that could hit Serbia. One-third of Croatia was still in Serb hands following the 1991 war of secession from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, and Zagreb's patience with U.N. mediation was over. Additionally, shipments to the Bosnians that passed through Croatia could be screened to keep out strategic weapons, in case of a future Muslim-Croat war. Croatia was under the same U.N. arms embargo that handicapped Bosnia."

   While the UN has no confirmation process in which questions are publicly answered by a candidate for a post, how can the UN justify, without more, appointing to a high post an individual credibly alleged to have been involved in violating UN arms sanctions? The interest here is not in re-litigating Balkans decisions or the partisan breakdown of Galbraith's supporters and detractors -- rather it is, does this UN take UN sanctions seriously? We'll see.

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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