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At UN, Ban Says Holbrooke's Public Blog Talk of de Mistura Is Not Proper, But Unlike Galbraith, Jurisdiction Questioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 12 -- Two weeks ago, Inner City Press reported that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would name as his envoy to Afghanistan Staffan de Mistura, who hired Mr. Ban's son in law in Iraq. A week ago, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban about it. Ban replied that the choice is his "prerogative."

  Last Friday, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke told Foreign Policy's The Cable that de Mistura told him he has been offered the post.

    With the cat entirely out of the bag, Inner City Press on January 11 asked Mr. Ban, in his first stakeout interview in the UN's new North Lawn Conference Building, "Richard Holbrooke is being quoted as saying that you have offered the top UN post in Kabul to Staffan de Mistura. I wonder, is he right in saying that?" Video here, from Minute 15:18.

  The premise of the question was, while Ban's talking points last week involved questioning why the New York Times would chime on on his prerogative, it would be more difficult to say Holbrooke was wrong.

  But Ban's answer was almost identical, that "I don't think it is proper to discuss detailed matters on appointment procedures publicly." But it seems clear that Ban has offered the job to de Mistura, who in turn told Holbrooke -- to nail the job down, some say -- and Holbrooke intentionally went public.

  When Ban says this is not "proper," does he mean that de Mistura should not have told Holbrooke that he's been offered the job? Since, as Inner City Press exclusively reported, Ban's choice as Darfur envoy of Ibrahim Gambari leaked because Gambari asked some UN staff to sign up to work for him in El Fasher, Ban could have told de Mistura to keep it under raps.

  Or, as his comments seem to point, is Ban calling Holbrooke's public statement to The Cable improper? Previously, Ban fired Peter Galbraith, whom Holbrooke has pushed for the UN's deputy post in Kabul, for going public with his critic of Kai Eide covering up Hamid Karzai electoral fraud.

  Ban can and does crack down on UN staff for speaking publicly or blowing the whistle. One wonders if Ban's implicit rebuke of Holbrooke leaves any mark at all. Ultimately, it traces back to de Mistura. But he has ingratiated himself with Ban's Turtle Bay. Between now and the conference on Afghanistan in London on January 28, what could go wrong? Watch this site.

Holbrooke lets it all hang out, Ban's critique not shown

  From the UN's January 11 transcript:

Inner City Press: On Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke is being quoted as saying that you have offered the top UN post in Kabul to Staffan de Mistura. I wonder, is he right in saying that?

SG: First of all, this appointment of a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General is still under consideration. Of course, I don't think it is proper to discuss detailed matters on appointment procedures publicly, but as soon as the decision is made I will let you know. I have been discussing this matter with President [Hamid] Karzai and other concerned major parties who could be the best candidate who can really work together with all major parties to have a very harmonious and coordinated role as SRSG of the United Nations.

   As we've noted, just as Hamid Karzai vetoed Paddy Ashdown for the post, he may try the same with de Mistura, even more so after Holbrooke's staged endorsement.

* * *

Holbrooke Scoops UN's Ban as de Mistura Brags, Nepotism by Proxy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 9 -- With the UN still desperately claiming no decision has been made to name Staffan de Mistura as its envoy to Kabul, de Mistura bragged to the U.S.' Richard Holbrooke that the job is his. Holbrooke in turn told Foreign Policy's nimble Cable, which published it late Friday, to the Web and yes, to Inner City Press, which earlier in the week had predicted de Mistura and asked Ban Ki-moon about it.

  This UN is the gang that can't shoot straight. By Saturday, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky was insisting to AFP's Washington bureau that no decision had been made, that Ban was the only one who could make it. But the moment for him to have done so was, at latest, on January 6, when he briefed the Security Council on Afghanistan.

  Afterwards Ban read notes to the Press and took some questions. Inner City Press asked about the New York Times' editorial, which plugged Jean Marie Guehenno over de Mistura, who it called a low key bureaucrat. The choice is "my prerogative," Ban told Inner City Press, not for the NYT to make. This telegraphed the choice. But still Ban let his choice and Richard Holbrooke scoop him.

  Why would de Mistura brag? Perhaps to nail it down, and not wait until the January 28 conference in London. Anything could happen, between now and then.

  Inner City Press and the Washington Post (and Friday's Foreign Policy, which Ban and the South Korean press have previously been quick to point out is owned by the Washington Post) have already noted that de Mistura's stock rose with Ban when he hired Ban's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee as his chief of staff while serving in Iraq.

  (This pattern of nepotism by proxy, or by Chatterjee, has continued in Copenhagen, where Jan Mattsson of UNOPS in turn hired Chatterjee, for a D-1 post in the process of being upgraded to D-2, another leap).

   But de Mistura whole rise has been fueled by "suck-up hires," as one long time observer put it. Under Kofi Annan, de Mistura hired the son of Annan's chief of staff Iqbal Riza. Since as Ban's Congo envoy Alan Doss knew and worked around, parent and child can't both work for the UN, Riza's son got his paychecks through another name. But the effect was the name: rise by hiring the close relatives of Turtle Bay's powerful.

UN's Ban and Holbrooke, knife (or Cable) in back not shown

  Just as Hamid Karzai previously vetoed Paddy Ashdown, Inner City Press is told he'd like to veto de Mistura, probably even more so now that Holbrooke has endorsed him. But he'll likely lack the leverage to do so at the January 28 conference. So what can happen, between now and then? Watch this site.

Footnote: late Friday in the UN's new three story building on its East River fronting Norht Lawn, Inner City Press informed three well placed officials about Holbrooke's use of The Cable. One who said Holbrooke was behind the NYT editorial shook his head and called it deft and even devious, while asking, "What has Holbrooke accomplished, in either Af or Pak?"

  Another said the puppet master behind the NYT editorial wasn't Holbrooke but rather the U.S.' Permanent Representative to the UN. (She was in DC Friday, among other things meeting with Hilary Clinton.) The third mused that Guehenno, something of a dandy and man about town, might have met the retired NYT editorial writer Unger at some expensive restaurant. The rest, as they say, is history.

* * *

At UN, Kai Eide's Swansong and Ban's Prerogative, Afhgan Veto in Wings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 6, updated Jan. 7 -- As outgoing UN envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide spoke in the Security Council Wednesday morning, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin slumped next to him, non-plussed. Eide fell under fire not only for allegedly covering up President Hamid Karzai's election fraud in 2009, but also from Russia and others for being, in their view, too willing to talk with the Taliban.

  The question of who will replace Eide has already been decided by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a senior Ban advisor told Inner City Press on the evening of January 5. Publicly, it's between Staffan de Mistura, favored by the U.S. and Ban, and Jean-Marie Guehenno, favored by France (and pronounced by the Russian mission as "Gavno," or excrement.)

  The self-styled Paper of Record slammed both Kai Eide and de Mistura's "low key style" and "bureaucratic instincts." The UN's response, seeming decided on at a meeting Monday morning and crystallized in talking points, was to question why the paper chimed in with an editorial at this time.

As the Security Council's gabfest on Afghanistan came to an end, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon what he made of the New York Times editorial. He said he had read it, but that choosing the replacement of Kai Eide is his "prerogative." But what about Hamid Karzai's veto?

 As to the origins of the Gray Lady's editorial, while the U.S. State Department is pushing de Mistura, there are other views in Foggy Bottom, with direct access to Times Square.  The finger points at Richard Holbrooke, and as the actual author the retired op-ed writing Robert Unger. Last time, Holbrooke lobbied Ban to get Peter Galbraith appointed. Given how that worked out, the theory goes, Holbrooke couldn't lobby Ban directly, but rather had to work through the Times. But Ban has in essence shot it down.

UN's Ban, Kai Eide moving out of focus, Karzai veto

   Left unanswered for a week now are questioned posed to spokesman Martin Nesirky about Ban Ki-moon's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee, hired by de Mistura in Iraq, later promoted by Jan Mattsson at UNOPS in Copenhagen, in both cases reportedly to gain favor with Mr. Ban. On January 6, Nesirky for the first time cut off questions, saying at 12:30 that Ban was about to speak at the Security Council stakeout. But up to 12:50, Ban had still not appeared.

  Others muse that Ban Ki-moon's call for NATO to name a civilian / humanitarian czar is a fall back position. If de Mistura is vetoed by Karzai, he could go for the UN-urged NATO position. It would be nice to get more of these questions answered, but at this UN it is not happening. Watch this site.

Footnote: as the Council meeting broke up Mona Jul, Norwegian Deputy Ambassador, and lambaster of Mr. Ban, waited and greeted Kai Eide. In her anti-Ban memo, the only SRSG she praised was... her paisan Kai Eide. Eide will hold a press conference at the UN on January 7. We'll be there.

Update January 7, 8:21 a.m. -- And then it was canceled:

Please note that the press briefing that had been scheduled for 10:00 am on Thursday by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has been cancelled. Mr. Eide is traveling to Washington, D.C. today and is unavailable for the briefing.

   And so Kai Eide goes out as he came in. Al Kai Eide, we hardly knew ye...

 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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