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UN's Harston Removed from W. Sahara As Quid Pro Quo for Van Walsum, Ban Too Quiet as on Fowler, Diplomats Say

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- The UN's envoy to Western Sahara, Julian Harston, has unceremonious left that post, and been reassigned to the UN Office in Belgrade, Serbia. Inner City Press is told, by Polisario and other diplomatic sources, that Harston's removal from Western Sahara was a "quid pro quo... The pro-Morocco [Peter] Van Walsun was taken out, or took himself out, and so Morocco demanded that Harston leave, tit for tat," one senior diplomat told Inner City Press.

  At the UN noon briefing on March 5, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Michele Montas to confirm and explain Harston's removal from Western Sahara and reassignment to Belgrade. Even those the move, though not the reason, had been noted in the Balkan press, Ms. Montas said she didn't have information about it, would look into and update Inner City Press.

   This did not take place that day or the next, and so on March 7 Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas' deputy, Marie Okabe, who was listed as on-duty that day.  On March 8, Ms. Okabe replied merely that "we are looking into it." Inner City Press directly asked for UN comment on the diplomat's "quid pro quo" quote.  A day later, none has been received.

    How can it be that Ban's Spokesperson's Office still has "no information" about the new assignment given to Harston, and why?

UN's Ban greets Harston on his way to W. Sahara, explanation for exit not shown

   Compared with the UN's ongoing silence about its ostensible envoy to Niger Robert Fowler, who was abducted in December while traveling in that country in a UNDP vehicle but without any UN security, Harston perhaps "got off easy," one of the Africa-focused diplomats remarked, adding that the Ban Administration's lack of transparency is making it more difficult for the UN to recruit qualified envoys to other countries, particularly in Africa. They claim they are withholding their short list of candidates to replace Kermal Dervis at UNDP, he continued, out of respect for those who applied.  At that level, it's an absurd concern. But silence on Fowler, and selling out Harston, that hurts them with people who might otherwise apply. It's a race to the bottom.

  As so it goes in Ban's UN.

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

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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