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At the UN, Ban's Beirut Appointee Deals Real Estate With Spencer Abraham, As Williams Eyes UK

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

Inner City Press' previous Darfur coverage: June 6, May 18, April 16

UNITED NATIONS, July 30 -- As a barebones UN press corps waited for the Darfur draft to "go blue" -- which happened Monday night, click here for Inner City Press' story and the text of the resolution -- the Ban Ki-moon administration made one and a half new appointments, while appearing to lose their only recently appointed expert on the Middle East.

            Michael Williams, who accompanied Ban on his jaunt to Syria and elsewhere, is reported to be leaving to do the same for UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Inner City Press on Monday asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Marie Okabe pointblank, "Has Williams given notice?"

            "No, I cannot confirm that," Ms. Okabe answered. "I don't think there's anything official to announce. As far as the S-G is concerned, he will respect Mr. Williams' decision."

Mr. Ban and his special advisers - Williams, at right, still shown

            Ban Ki-moon also appears to respect, at least in some instances, the independent views of his nominees. How else to explain the replacement of Mervat Tallawy at the Economic and Social Council for Western Asia in Beirut by Bader al Dafa of Qatar, quoted for example that "it does not make sense to have US soldiers in Iraq"? Click here for that, and see this. Here is a photo of al Dafa with... Donald Rumsfeld.

            Al Dafa is also a player in real estate, teaming up with Grubb & Ellis and the Abraman Group.  Which Abraham Group, you ask? The one associated with ex-U.S. secretary of energy (and now reported Fred Thompson advisor) Spencer Abraham, of course. Deals, deals, deals.

            Mr. Ban is moving on a track to get the UN more involved in Iraq, at the request of the Bush administration. Meanwhile Monday at the UN, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was intent in taking the sting out of his previous comments that Saudi Arabia is not being helpful in Iraq. Did it appear that Amb. Khalilzad was supporting the Rep. Weiner and Rep. Naddler legislation trying to block arms deals with Saudi Arabia?

            At the UN on Monday, many questions were asked and few were answered, at least by the Press' deadline. We'll have more on this tomorrow.

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund, while UNDP won't answer.

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

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