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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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Ban's Silent Diplomacy is Also Secret, Like Search for Sudan's Water, Blair's UNDP Link, Turin Shrouded

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

UNITED NATIONS, August 29 -- A day after Ban Ki-moon said he had exerted all possible efforts to free the South Korean hostages in Afghanistan, his spokesperson Michele Montas refused to specify any of the referenced efforts. "We cannot provide information on that," Ms. Montas said. Since it is reported that the government of Afghanistan played no role in the negotiations, Inner City Press asked, "Did he speak with the Taliban?"

            "It was a diplomatic effort that as a silent one," Ms. Montas said. This is a Ban Ki-moon innovation -- no longer quiet diplomacy, but now silent diplomacy, a la Marcel Marceau. Miming with the Taliban? For now, Ban will not say.

            Ban also made much of water under Sudan. He has previously written that the conflict in Darfur is related to global warming. On Wednesday Ms. Montas was asked to elaborate "on what the UN is doing to find and exploit this underground lake in Darfur." She said, "There are experts actually studying the situation, scientific experts."

            "UN scientists?"


            "Hired by whom?"

            Ms. Montas said she would check "who is exactly the organizing sector at the UN." But this information, if provided, was not included in the UN's transcript of the briefing, eight hours later.

            Included, however, was the Q&A where Inner City Press asked how many UN system official are headed to Turin to meet with Mr. Ban, and how much it will cost. On the latter, there was Q but no A, only that "the Italian government is paying for most of it," and that carbon offsetting, while supposedly "discussed," has still not been implemented. Mr. Ban's commitment to the environment begins -- and end, some cynics, not yet this one, say -- with a widely rumored insistence on seeing his office lights turned off at the end of the day. And then the UN building leaks air conditioning in summer, heat in winter, all night long.

New official portrait of Ban, Aug. 28, 2007, silent diplomacy not shown (invisible)

            Back on August 24, Inner City Press had asked Ms Montas how and by whom is Tony Blair's office funded, as the envoy of the Quartet. Ms. Montas said she would find out, but by Wednesday afternoon, nothing had been provided. So Inner City Press asked Ban's outgoing Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Michael Williams.

            "It's out of some trust fund," Williams said.

            Inner City Press asked, "Administered by the UN Department of Political Affairs?"

            Mr. Williams looked off-camera and asked a staffer. The answer? The UN Development Program. Given the scandals surrounding that agency, from payment in hard currency to the Kim Jong-il government in North Korea through alleged involvement in diamond smuggling in Zimbabwe to opening rebuffing the UN's Ethics Office -- click here for today's story, about the UN Staff Council's formal "dismay" at UNDP's "culture of impunity" -- is it surprising that this is how Tony Blair will be funded. We'll have more on this.

            And what the spokesperson calls the Italian government's majority funding of the UN hierarchy's Turin retreat -- is it also through UNDP or some other shrouded trust fund? Developing.

* * *

Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (which had to be finalized without Ban's Department of Political Affairs having respond.)  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent 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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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

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