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For UN Kabul Post, de Mistura Out for Reasons of Family- But Whose?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 22 -- The UN's already embattled presence in Afghanistan has been thrown into further chaos. Staffan de Mistura, who earlier this year told U.S. Special Representative Richard Holbrooke that he had been offered the top UN post in Kabul now tells diplomats that he is turning it down "for family reasons."

  At the UN, the question was heard, "whose family reasons?" As Inner City Press and then others have reported, de Mistura previous hired the son in law of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Siddarth Chatterjee, as his deputy in Iraq. In fact, some viewed this as relevant to de Mistura's consideration by Ban for the Kabul job, which none other than the New York Times favored Jean Marie Guehenno over de Mistura for.

 But if it's de Mistura's family reasons, one wonders if he will continue in his presumably time consuming job at the World Food Program.

  In fact, as Inner City Press has reported from the beginning of the three card monte competition between de Mistura, Guehenno and Martin, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai was said to be prepared to veto de Mistura (the choice of some or most in the U.S. State Department), just as he earlier vetoed Paddy Ashdown.

  With de Mistura pulling out, focus at the UN is turning not to Guehenno or Ian Martin, but to former foreign minister of Slovakia Jan Kubis (who is also sometimes mentioned along with Slovenian President Danilo Turk as a possible next UN Secretary General when it becomes that Group's turn). According to the Turtle, also in consideration to replace di Mistura (we'll spell it both de and di since there seems to be no consensus, nor between Kubis and Koubis) are "Knut Vollebaek, Norway's foreign minister, and Atonio Gutteres of Portugal, the head of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees."

  At UN Headquarters since the Haitian earthquake, questions on Afghanistan, about rocket and then suicide attacks in Kabul, have been turned away. I'm sticking to Haiti today, Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky announced one day.

De Mistura: will he continue at WFP?

  On other days he has unlike his predecessors imposed a quota or ration on questions that can be asked. Nesirky did just that on January 22, when the de Mistura quitting story broke. Inner City Press asked a question about the Kabul rocket attack which was never answered.

As the UN heads to the January 28 conference in London on Afghanistan -- and a conference on Yemen the day before -- things are in disarray, with no replacement for Kai Eide on tap. Kubis ex macina? Watch this space.

Footnote: Speaking of Yemen, the country's foreign minister during a ceremony Friday taking over leadership of the Group of 77 and China referred to Ban Ki-moon as the Secretary General of the United STATES. Then he caught himself and said, Wishful thinking....

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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.

 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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