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As UN's Ban Dines in Barbados with Blair, $130 Million in Iraq UN Expansion Discussed in NY

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

UNITED NATIONS, August 8 -- As the senselessly stealth vacation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon comes to a close, plans for UN expansion and expense in Iraq take center stage.

     It took nearly a week, but the UN finally on Wednesday acknowledged that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been on a something of a vacation in Barbados. Every day this week, the UN has put out a daily schedule for Ban saying that he is "traveling." On August 2, Inner City Press reported that Ban's one-day official visit to Barbaros was being parlayed into a vacation.

   Since protesters at the gates of the UN in New York were calling on Mr. Ban to get more involved in try to free the South Korean hostages in Afghanistan, Inner City Press asked the UN spokesperson, where is Mr. Ban traveling to?  "We might have an announcement tomorrow," the spokesman on Monday said. But no.

     Afterwards another correspondent asked, could he be going to Kabul? Well, no. On Wednesday the spokesman announced that "last night, the Secretary-General had a working dinner in Bridgetown with the Envoy of the Middle East Quartet, Tony Blair, to discuss the work of the Quartet. The Secretary-General is expected to return to New York tomorrow."

            The British press has been full of snarky stories about the Blairs' holiday on Barbados, in the Coral Sundown "mans" of singer Cliff Richard on Sugar Hill. Blair is no longer an elected official in the UK, but discloses, this is a vacation, not work.  Is it so difficult?  Communication, communication.

Blair on Barbados (2005)

      For now, a question about Barbados. It has been reported that

"by 2009, in the name of creating a level playing field for free trade, the price that countries like Barbados will be paid by the EU for their sugar will be slashed by 40 per cent. Coming after decades when Caribbean cane producers have been struggling to compete with sugar produced from the turnip-like beet by Europe's heavily subsidized farmers, this looming cut has been taken by many as the final blow, a death sentence for West Indies sugar."

            For all of the UN's talk about taking seriously the development and trade rights of lower-income countries, what the UN's position on this? Has it been discussed or considered in recent days?

            At the UN on Wednesday, among the questions raised were Ban's relation to the Korean peninsula dialogue scheduled for August 28, and plans to increase UN presence in Iraq. On the former, the spokesman said

the one thing I would like to point out is, although in the past the Secretary-General was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, in his current capacity, he is the Secretary-General of the United Nations as a whole, and the position of the United Nations as a whole is to encourage the process between the leaders of both the Democratic People's Republic and of the Republic of Korea to continue in their efforts.  We will continue to monitor those developments.

  So will we. The Iraq headquarters Q&A and post-briefing addition:

Question:  With regards to this creation of this new reinforced headquarters or something that's being talked about, how does funding work for that?  Is that something that comes from the core UN budget, or is it like from the peacekeeping budget?  I am not sure how that all gets paid for.

Associate Spokesperson:  I don't know.  This is something that is still being discussed, so I don't know whether the funding has been worked out.  I'll see if there are any details about that.

[The Spokesperson's Office later informed the correspondent that, normally, those costs would be part of the United Nations peacekeeping budget.]

            While the UN is trying hard to hold confidential the communications between the Secretariat and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), there's been talk, including in the Staff Union's August 7 meeting, of a $130 million request by the Secretariat for a new UN Headquarters in Iraq, a request of which the ACABQ is said to be critical. We'll see.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.

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