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also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --

Annan Pitches UN With No Mention of Reform; EU President Dodges Human Rights and Micro-States

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- Globalization is not a tide that lifts all boats, outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly on Tuesday. In a twenty-minute speech which contained the names of four countries -- Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan -- and one part of a country, Darfur, Mr. Annan argued that "the only answer to this divide world must be a truly United Nations." The phrasing was vintage Edward Mortimer, the ex-journalist who is Mr. Annan's chief speechwriter. In a Jeremiad burst, the speech called "shameful that last year's Summit Outcome does not contain even one word about non-proliferation and disarmament."

            One glaring omission widely noticed in the speech was any discussion of reform or transparency at the United Nations. In light of Mr. Annan's recent attempt to back-away from an earlier commitment by his spokesman that he would file financial disclosure, and for example of Mr. Mortimer's polemic, still on the UN website, that none of the Oil-for-Food allegations were ever proved. This UN website has a similar un-updated letter from Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor, now running to replace Mr. Annan. If the UN is the solution, it needs to be better run. This includes how information is released.

Kofi & R of Congo

  While much is withheld, the UN Spokesman's office on Tuesday gave out copies of Annan's luncheon menu. Two words on the menu were set off in quotations marks -- Pommes de Terre "Rosti" and Banana "Sundae." The last of these had one correspondent reminiscing about Chris Munnion's now out-of-print memoir of report from Africa, Banana Sunday. As noted by Mr. Annan, many problems in Africa have remain unimproved over the last ten years. The problems go back further -- an Inner City Press correspondent in Africa writes to remind that William Lacy Swing, now pro-consul in Congo, was once the democracy advisor to Liberia's Samuel Doe. Plus ca change.

            In a separate morning press conference, Finnish President Tarja Halonen denied that her September 10 meeting with Filipina President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo concerned the accelerating killings of journalists and activists in the Philippines. Asked by Inner City Press for a summary of the meeting, which was reported to concern the "killing of 752 civilians since Arroyo came into power into 2001," President Halonen said it concerned European Union and Asian relations, and will lead to an EU presences at ASEM in December.

            Inner City Press also asked President Halonen to comment on the September 17 referendum in Transnistria, in which 97% of those casting ballots voted for independence from Moldova. Finland as EU president has already said it refused to recognize the referendum. But Tuesday Finland's president said she has not been very involved in the issue, which she described as a "longstanding" if not "frozen" conflict. She spoke positively of the momentum of Kosovo away from Serbia, but would not distinguish  Transnistria. She did, however, say that she agrees the next UN Secretary-General should be from Asia, and that the current Security Council make-up is a Cold War relic. Candor on some topics, but not on human rights, or frozen Transnistria...

  In marginal news, with First Avenue in front of the UN filled with police, the president of Benin was reportedly caught in traffic and missed his address to conclude the meeting on least developed countries.

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UN Round-up: Poland's President Says Iraq Is Ever-More Tense While Amb. Bolton Talks Burmese Drugs, Spin on Ivory Coast

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, September 18 -- Even Poland, which among its foreign policies has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, has a president who admits the situation is "tense" in the relatively less contested parts of Iraq.

   Responding Monday to two questions from Inner City Press, President Lech Kaczynski called the situation in Iraq "very difficult." He ascribed "most of the conflict in the region" to religion, to "conflicts within, in a manner of speaking, Islam." Video here. President Kaczynski did not answer a second question, on proposals to enlarge the Security Council beyond the current fifteen.

            U.S. Senators Norm Coleman and Barbara Boxer, however, did answer the question of Security Council enlargement, when asked by Inner City Press in a stakeout interview. Senator Coleman said the Security Council is "not representative of the world as it exists" today, and named at least three additional countries for Council membership: India, Brazil and Japan. It should be noted that Pakistan, along with Italy and others, is hosting a dinner Wednesday night to ask for wider enlargement, or perhaps just to block this favor troika from any privileged place by the door.  Earlier on Wednesday in this jam-packed UN week, Sudan's president Al Bashir is slated to attend an African Union meeting, to discuss scenarios for Darfur.

            Senator Boxer said that she hasn't studied the Security Council expansion issue yet, that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not gotten into the issue in depth. She spoke mostly on Darfur, as did the UK's Minister for Africa Lord David Triesman. Inner City Press asked Lord Triesman -- one wag joked, None dare call him Treason -- for the UK's position on Ben Mkapa as mediator for or about Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

            "We don't view the issue as bilateral," responded Lord Triesman, before describing accelerating inflation, declining food supplies and trod-on human rights. Lord Triesman's press officer James Roscoe took a question on whether the UK believes that those who flee Zimbabwe should be treated as refugees by UNHCR, and not as they are treated in South Africa, as economic migrants to be forcibly returned.  "Isn't that a question for South Africa?" asked Mr. Roscoe rhetorically. Not really -- or, no more than Darfur is only a question for President al Bashir, who will appear at a UN press conference Tuesday.

@ UN, flesh pressed

            The question of Myanmar arose at a briefing on drugs. The head of the UN's Office of Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, told reporters that there's a nexus between increased opium crops in Afghanistan and the insurgents in the South. Inner City Press asked about the reports that less opium was produced under the Taliban.  Mr. Costa acknowledged that production has doubled since then. Video here.

            After the briefing, Inner City Press asked Mr. Costa directly about drugs and Myanmar. Mr. Costa stated that Myanmar's production has plummeted and "Burma will probably by opium free by 2012." Mr. Costa added, "But that's a case that is difficult to present in light of international public opinion... It is always easier for totalitarian countries to meet such goals."

            Given that the U.S. has listed drug flows from Myanmar as one of four reasons to put the country on the Security Council's agenda for expert briefings, including from the UN's political chief Ibrahim Gambari, Inner City Press Mr. Costa if as the UN's drug expert he would be willing to brief the Council. "I would be happy to, obviously," Mr. Costa said.

            Hours later at the Security Council stakeout, Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador John Bolton to respond to Mr. Costa's statement that opium production has been declining in Myanmar, and mentioned Mr. Costa's offer to brief the Council. Video here. As transcribed by the U.S. mission:

Reporter:  One question, on Burma, Myanmar known as Burma in the United 
Ambassador Bolton:  Known as Burma to me.
Reporter: oh okay... We had a briefing earlier today by the head of the U.N. 
Office of Drug and Crime, and it was mostly on Afghanistan, but he said that his 
office finds that Myanmar known as Burma, the production of opium is in fact, 
declining, and has been in decline.  So, he said he'd be willing to brief the 
council.  I'm wondering just what in your litany of the threat they pose, that 
was one of them, is it an outflow from some other source or...
Ambassador Bolton:  Well decline, decline from what level?  If you look at the 
so called golden triangle the areas controlled for many, many years by the Shan 
united army; production of narcotics out of that region has been at enormous 
levels for years and years and years.  So, even a decline doesn't signal the end 
of the kind of problem that the government of Burma poses.

            On the idea of Mr. Costa testifying, no answer was given. But it's only the beginning of the week of UN speeches. Left to the end on Monday were the least development nations, on which the speeches continued past 9 p.m. At a briefing in the morning, video here, reference was made by the UN's Anwarul Chowdhury to the duties of corporations, who claimed the UN Global Compact is very involved, and whose press staffer promised information on corporate engagements, not yet provided. 

   Later, the UN's NEPAD presented a panel of five, including three corporations. Inner City Press' question about the toxic waste dumping in Abidjan was met with a response by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur that it was all "exaggerated," that the corporation at issue has already cleaned it up, was already cleaning it up five days ago. Video here. This isn't true. According for example to Reuters, the clean up has only now begun, and will take several weeks. Click here for the Reuters article.  The UN's own write-up of the briefing has Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the Secretary-Generalís Special Adviser on Africa, saying "we all agree the private sector has a key role to play in Africaís future." If it doesn't dump toxic waste, of course...

    At the Secretary General's spokesman's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked about Darfur, the Congo and Mr. Annan's renewly found commitment to make financial disclosure. In the eastern Congolese district of Ituri, Peter Karim Ugada, who took seven UN peacekeepers hostage for a month is now described to Reuters by unnamed MONUC sources as "continu[ing] to conscript women, children and men into his ranks so that he has the 6,000 combatants he needs to be given the rank of general once he is reintegrated into the national army." Earlier this year, Kofi Annan stated that for the kidnapping of UN peacekeepers, Peter Karim would face "personal accountability." On financial disclosure, the UN offers this summary:

"Asked whether the Secretary-Generalís financial disclosure form would be made public, the Spokesman said it would not, nor would those of the UN staff who filed. The forms would be handled by the UN Ethics Office... On advice of lawyers, the Secretary-General had not filled out a financial disclosure form, which he was not required to, so as not tie the hands of his successor. However, in order to avoid misinterpretation of his position, the Secretary-General has decided to voluntarily submit a financial disclosure form. That decision was made on Friday."

   On Friday, Mark Malloch Brown made his calls from Newport, Rhode Island. Monday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric characterized as "privileged" even the identity of the lawyer or lawyers who Mr. Annan says told him not to file, despite having said through his spokesman that he would. Mr. Dujarric said that he will provide notice when the form -- which he says will not be public -- is in fact filed. We'll see.

            On the DR Congo, despite saying that on-the-record MONUC sources would be located, no answer was given. But Kofi Annan will be meeting with Joseph Kabila at 4:20 on Wednesday, a day when questions can be asked to the presidents of Finland, France, Sudan and Liberia...

At the UN, Stonewalling Continues on Financial Disclosure and Letter(s) U.S. Mission Has, While Zimbabwe Goes Ignored

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 15 -- "I have nothing beyond what the Secretary-General told you on Wednesday," UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Friday, responding to Inner City Press' continued questions on whether Mr. Kofi Annan has filed the financial disclosure form his main spokesman said he would. When Inner City Press directed Ms. Okabe to two wire service stories quoting separate UN sources that Mr. Annan has not, in fact, filed the form, Ms. Okabe said "those are press reports we cannot comment on."

   Minutes later, asked about recent reporting on the turmoil in Ivory Coast and Laurent Gbagbo's bid to stay in power, Ms. Okabe said, "we're seen that in the press, we may have a statement later in the day." Asked then to explain why the UN responds to some press reports but not, in this case the wires on the financial disclosure form, Ms. Okabe told Inner City Press, "I have nothing beyond what the Secretary-General said."

    Kofi Annan once castigated some in the press corps for spending time on improprieties and inconsistencies within the UN rather than on the wider world. But in this case, it was Mr. Annan's own intentionally vague answer which has given rise to two additional days of questions, from outlets from AP and Reuters to the New York Times and Sun. Note to Kofi: we want to cover the wider world, but you need to file that financial disclosure, as your spokesman said you would to serve as an example to other UN staff. And the name of the senior UN official who receives free housing from his government should also be released. And by the same token, the U.S. Mission should, in the spirit of the transparency they discuss, release the letter(s) they received on the issue of housing subsidies by governments.

   At a stakeout interview of U.S. Ambassador John Bolton following the Security Council 10-4-1 vote to put Myanmar on the agenda, Inner City Press asked Amb. Bolton when the U.S. will release a copy of the letter it has received on the question of housing subsidies by governments to UN officials.

            "I have the letter," Amb. Bolton confirmed, "I'm still considering what to do. I'll let you know when I've thought about it some more." Video here, from Minute 12:10.  We'll be here -- passing the time reading the UN annual report issued September 14 by UN Management's Chris Burnham. On an interim basis the report is spotty, offering for example under the heading "Areas of challenge" mostly bullet points blaming the member states for any shortfalls. An honest "challenge" appears on page 15, noting that Kofi Annan's envoys "were not able to significantly affect negotiations in Western Sahara and Myanmar." Myanmar was discussed in the Council on Friday; Western Sahara was raised to Kofi Annan at his Wednesday press conference, where he responded, "they are probably thinking about it, they're probably going to come up with a creative solution." We'll wait for that, too.

Egeland's IRe IN Northern Uganda (Vincent Otti not shown)

            Earlier Friday in the Council, the UN's Jan Egeland provided a briefing on the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he said rape by the army continues, and on Northern Uganda, where he confirmed speaking  with the Lord's Resistance Army's Vincent Otti, but did not mention meeting Otti face-to-face, as the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General as told Inner City Press that Mr. Egeland did.

            Mr. Egeland was asked about the UN's man in Congo, William Lacy Swing. Following Mr. Egeland's savvy praise, Inner City Press asked about MONUC's now-amended self-exoneration of having been present when the Congolese Army burned down the village of Kazana on April 21, 2006. Mr. Egeland responded that yes, the Army is a problem. He said they need more training -- which is what the UN's Jean-Marie Guehenno said about Peter Karim, who after kidnapping UN peacekeepers for a month was offered a colonel's post in the Congolese army. Friday Jan Egeland said it takes two minutes to fire a colonel. And apparently less than a minute of serious thought to hire one.

            Four Security Council  members brought up the issue of Zimbabwe, the mass eviction and the flow of Zimbabweans fleeing. Mr. Egeland reported that the Mugabe government demolished 92,000 housing units as part of Operation Take Out the Trash, and has since built a mere 3,325 units, many of which have been given to people not evicted at all, but Mugabe cronies. UN-Habitat's Anna Tibaijuka issued a detailed report on the eviction (and was Friday named head of the UN in Nairobi, where one hopes she can bring sanity to UNPOS and clean up shenanigans about Somalia by former and present UN staff in Nairobi).

  On Zimbabwe, one wondered why Kofi Annan backed off in Banjul on his stated plan to mediate, in favor of Ben Mkapa, who has since been shown to not be the mediator at all. ("Those are just press reports," Ms. Okabe said Friday.) One wonders why the Council is not turning to Zimbabwe at least as it now will on Myanmar. Inner City Press asked Mr. Egeland if UNHCR should not at least for now treat those fleeing Zimbabwe as refugees, Mr. Egeland did not directly answer. And to his staff, Inner City Press has in outstanding questions about OCHA and UNDP in Somalia, more on which anon -- or Annan, as one wag joked.

Update at 5 p.m. Friday, UN Spokeswoman Marie Okabe provided page 233 of 277 of Paul Volcker's September 25 report, for the proposition that there might be nothing untoward in Mr. Annan's financial disclosure form, which he has not filed despite his spokesman's statement that he would, as an example to other staff. While always appreciating a response, especially a document, one wonders if the UN would accept from other senior officials an extraneous document rather than the financial disclosure form. It also can't be missed that the page provided refers to Kojo Annan's faxes to family lawyer Michael Wilson -- both are connected in the public record with Trafigura, whose toxic waste was dumped in Ivory Coast. Just file already - or explain why not. Thus we end the work week.

[Ed.'s update Sept. 17: On Saturday night, the following was issued by email to Inner City Press and presumably other correspondents, that

"On advice of lawyers, the Secretary-General had not filled out a financial disclosure form, which he was not required to, so as not tie the hands of his successor. However, in order to avoid any embarrassment to the Organization, the Secretary-General has decided to voluntarily submit a financial disclosure form."

   Since in May of this year, this same Spokesman's office had unequivocally stated that Mr. Annan would fill out and file the financial disclosure form, the advice of unnamed lawyer must have come more recently. Was it Nicolas Michel, who at a September 12 press conference responded to a question from Inner City Press about housing subsidies to UN official by government by reading a scripted answer from notes? Or was it an Annan family lawyer from outside the UN system, like Michael Wilson who shows up in the page of the Volcker report provided on Friday, and more recently in press reports about payments to Kojo Annan by Trafigura, which dumped toxic waste in Abidjan only last month? (See Inner City Press' September 12 story, click here).

            As set forth below, Kofi Annan at his September 13 press conference was asked by Inner City Press if he'd filed the UN Financial Disclosure form. His response was a carefully-crafted phrase, "I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I've always done." Video here, at Minute 45:25.

At the UN, Financial Disclosure Is Withheld As Freedom of Information Is Promised, Of Hollywood and Dictators' Gift Shops

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

  UNITED NATIONS, September 14 -- A day after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan evaded Inner City Press' media conference question of if he had filed his financial disclosure form, the Associated Press Thursday afternoon ran an "exclusive report" that Mr. Annan has not filed the disclosure. Reuters ran essentially the same story, although in India at least pushing Mr. Annan's Wednesday presser to Thursday.

   After Associate UN Spokesman Yves Sorokobi Thursday at noon answered questions from the New York Times and Inner City Press about the disclosure, rejecting the "has-not-filed" interpretation of Mr. Annan's answer of the previous day, elite media source were told that more will be disclosed. Mr. Annan at press time was en route to, and then had arrived in, Cuba, where apparently there's been an embargo on telephones through which to directly confirm or deny the filing of the financial disclosure form.

   Mr. Annan had concluded his Wednesday press conference by calling it a "healthy development" that "in many countries now [we] are seeing very active press who are being heard and questioning. In some cases they are suppressed, and we should resist that."  Minutes prior to that statement, Mr. Annan had given an answer that now, if AP's to be believed, was intentionally evasive. And his Spokesman's office stuck to that position until and past press time on the following day as well.

   Moments before a Thursday press conference by Christopher Burnham, Under-Secretary for Management, a hefty 392-page Consolidated Report on the UN was made available. (USG and book pictured below.) Journalists were hard pressed to read or even skim the report in two minutes, and therefore questions began with the issue of housing subsidies by governments to UN officials, and proceeded on to whether Mr. Annan should have filed the financial disclosure form. Everyone should file, Mr. Burnham twice replied. Video here

UN as open book? [Ed.'s note: For the record, above is USG Burnham, photo by the great Devra Berkowitz. Our correspondent today was so busy chasing an upcoming story his filing was fragmentary but reproduced here in full, in the spirit of cinema verite.]

   On August 28, Inner City Press had asked U.S. Ambassador John Bolton at a stakeout interview (transcript here) if he knew if Mr. Annan had filed his financial disclosure. Amb. Bolton replied that he was not aware. The afternoon's AP story noted that Mr. Burnham was among those privately urging Mr. Annan to file. Then again, the United States, for whom Mr. Burnham began his tenure by saying he works for, has yet to release the Secretariat's two letters about the housing subsidy by governments issues. Ah, transparency.

     But perhaps open governance is coming. Mr. Burnham spoke Thursday of a proposed UN Freedom of Information office or procedure, which he said is being considered by the General Assembly. "It will be the gold standard," Mr. Burnham said. When asked how and where a person denied access to information could appeal the withholding, Mr. Burnham said the policy is still subject to improvement.

            Mr. Burnham was asked what parts of the UN system's budget are still off-balance-sheet. After a brief chuckle, or chortle, Mr. Burnham explained that UNDP, for example, does its own report. UNDP is apparently a world unto itself, in that for example neither UNDP nor the UN Spokesman's office has yet given any answer to Inner City Press' question from two weeks ago on why UNDP partners on issues of open source software with Uzbekistan's Karimov regime, which uses software to block access to news websites like the BBC. Thursday at noon, Associate Spokesman Yves Sorokobi had a prepared statement ready on why UNESCO had given an award to Karimov. It was not as president, Mr. Sorokobi said. And the award was a coin that's available for sale in the UN's gift shop in Paris. But what then of targeted sanctions?

            Continuing the chain of free association, one thinks of Uzbek migrant workers doing construction in Moscow for example. The issue arose at a briefing by the Secretary-General's point man on migration, BP's Peter Sutherland. With a candor he displayed in a previous interview on June 8, Mr. Sutherland let drop that the notion of a conference on migration is opposed by the United States. Asked for Russia's position, he said he didn't know it. Asked about Australia, in light of that country's outsourcing of asylum-seeker review to the sun-baked island of Nairu, Mr. Sutherland opined that Australia might be another opponent, and urged reporters to ask nations for their positions.

   Two similar pollings took place. First in the Security Council, a straw poll was held on the five current candidates to be the next Secretary General. The results, by country, were reportedly as follows, by encourage, discourage and no opinion: South Korea, 14-1-0. India (& UN), 10-3-2. Thailand, 9-3-3. Jordan, 6-4-5. And Sri Lanka, 3-5-7.

   The president of the Security Council and his press counselor Theodossis Demetracoplous were asked if any candidates were being encouraged to drop out. The former said of course not, the latter showed reporters, but not for photographs, what the ballot looked like. Alphabetical, with ST at the bottom.

  The other more open polling took place in Conference Room 9. George Clooney came to town, along with the author of "Night." The press stakeout was packed, with even radio reporters, especially the females, crowding in to take photos. A wise and raffish scribe offered a possible lede: "Clooney today urged the Council to green-light a mission to Darfur."

   The day at UN Headquarters ended with an event in the basement (video here), after which the local Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reflectively defended the failure to release the Ivory Coast report of the SRSG on the Prevention of Genocide.  Some reports, Mr. Craig Mokhiber said, are not meant to be released. They're for secret human rights diplomacy. Secret indeed...

UN's Annan Says Dig Into Toxic Dumping, While Declining to Discuss Financial Disclosure

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

  UNITED NATIONS, September 13 -- Calling for serious enforcement action be to taken against the companies responsible for dumping toxic waste in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday said the world "needs to be careful that the developing world, the poor countries, do not become the dumping ground for this type of waste."

            Inner City Press also asked Mr. Annan why he has apparently not filed his UN Financial Disclosure form, despite at least two statements by his spokesman that he would. Mr. Annan answered, "I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I've always done." (Video here, from Minute 45:25, transcript here.) While technically the UN Financial Disclosure form must be filled out by all senior UN officials except the Secretary General, spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said Mr. Annan would file, in at least two press conferences this year.

  On May 3, Mr. Dujarric told reporters that Mr. Annan's "form will be filled out, I have no doubt" including so that the Secretary-General could "be an example to the rest of the staff who need to fill it out." In another briefing he repeated, "The Secretary-General will, as we had said, fill out the form." Now it's said the form has not been filled out, and Mr. Annan reverts to the cryptic position that "I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I've always done."

            Behind the toxic dumping in Ivory Coast, which has killed six people and sickened ten thousand more, is a company which leased the ship and owned the waste, Trafigura Beheer BV, which also figured in the UN - Iraq Oil for Food scandal. In Abidjan, the Ivorian directors of Trafigura's subsidiary Puma Energie have been arrested. For the record, Trafigura states that it "acted lawfully." Facts on File reports that:

"in May 2001, the Essex tanker, chartered by Dutch oil-trading company Trafigura Beheer BV, had been topped off with an extra 230,000 barrels after inspection at an off-shore Iraqi oil platform. Trafigura had purchased the oil in the shipment from French oil-services company Ibex Energy France. The cargo had been seized in the Caribbean Sea after the captain alerted U.S. and U.N. authorities. Later, according to the Journal, Ibex's general manager, Jean Paul Cayre, in an affidavit filed with Britain's High Court of Justice, had said the two companies performed the same routine with the Essex in 2000, under Trafigura's direction, paying Iraq $5.4 million for the extra oil. At Trafigura's direction, Cayre said, the two companies had shredded records of the deals and replaced them with false ones."

Dump in Abidjan SG

    Documents tie French President Jacques Chirac's friend Patrick Maugein to the 25 million barrels allocated to Trafigura Beheer BV, which employed Patrick's brother Philippe as a consultant. Trafigura was accused of evading taxes on oil imports into Thailand; the International Relations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has taken testimony on Trafigura's involving in the Sudanese oil industry.

    Public reporting on Trafigura comes even closer to the current UN.  The Financial Times' Claudio Gatti one year ago reported:

"Kojo Annan, son of Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary-general, received more than Dollars 750,000 from several oil trading companies now under investigation for their role in the UN's oil-for-food program (OFFP) for Iraq. The funds were dispatched between 2002 and 2003 to an account Kojo  Annan opened under his middle name - Adeyemo - in a Swiss branch of Coutts bank... In 2003, one company - Trafigura Beheer BV, a Dutch-based entity founded by traders who formerly worked for the then fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich - sent $247,500 to Kojo Annan's account at Coutts... The company found records of the payment in question, but explained that it was related to a transaction with PPI, the Nigerian company that employed Mr Annan as a director. 'The request (of payment) was received from a PPI fax and it was assumed that this was a PPI account.' Mr. Annan's lawyer said PPI 'conducted business with Trafigura in 2002 and 2003' clarifying the deals were confined to Nigerian gas oil and petrol. PPI's representative in Geneva is Michael Wilson, a Ghanaian friend of the Annan family, who has attracted scrutiny in the oil-for-food investigation. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Annan both worked for Cotecna, the Swiss inspection company that in 1998 received a UN contract under the oil-for-food program ultimately worth $60 million. Between spring 2002 and spring 2003, Mr. Annan's Coutts account received over $200,000."

            Paul Volcker, in an interview last week, stated that Kojo Annan had lied during the Oil-for-Food investigation, and that Kofi Annan's failure to launch a credible investigation in a timely manner is something he will have to answer for. (MP3 here.) Some in the UN believe that Mr. Annan pulled back from his spokesman's commitments earlier this year that he would file Financial Disclosure due to complications such as the entrepreneurial projects of his son Kojo Annan, and believe that Mr. Annan is making an error by refusing to file or even explain why he has not filed.

            Inner City Press last week asked the spokesman's office point blank if Mr. Annan had filed, and was told that the official response is that Mr. Annan has met his legal obligation, and that this means that since the Secretary-General is the one high UN official who is not required to file, he has not done so. Inner City Press then referenced, without any response or explanation being given, previous statements on the issue:

            Under-Secretary General for Management Christopher Burnham on February 11, 2005, as summarized by the UN itself, said of the Financial Disclosure forms that "the Secretary-General would not only fill one out, but would probably be the first do so."

   On May 3, Mr. Dujarric told reporters that Mr. Annan's "form will be filled out, I have no doubt." In another briefing he repeated, "The Secretary-General will, as we had said, fill out the form."

    Now it's said the form has not been filled out, and Mr. Annan reverts to the position that "I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I've always done" - that is, that he "acted lawfully."

  Just before 5 p.m. press time, Inner City Press again sought an explanation from the Spokesman's Office and was again told that the Secretary-General follows all laws, and no law requires his filing of the UN's Financial Disclosure form. Asked to explain the change between, for example, the May 3, 2006 statement that Mr. Annan's "form will be filled out," including "to be an example to the rest of the staff who need to fill it out" and what has happened (or not happened) since, there was no verbal response. Tough job, at least on this.

            Somewhat similarly, the incoming president of the General Assembly, Sheika Haya Al-Khalifa, was asked if she will during the coming year continue the private practice of corporate law through her law firm, which has represented among others the global banks HSBC, Mizuho, Arab Banking Corporation and BNP Paribas. (Click here for a sample project; video here, from Minute 21:55.) The response appeared to be that her firm will continue such representation; it was not clear that any safeguards are in place, despite the fact that such banks have partnered with the UN. Inner City Press asked about the UN Global Compact, corporations and human rights more generally. "You mean the NGOs?" was the answer.

  Analysis: one observer longed for the type of language used at times by Mr. Annan, for example that the world "needs to be careful that the development world, the poor countries, do not become the dumping ground for this type of waste." Less appealing is the statement by Mr. Annan, called incipiently Trafiguran by one wag, that he honors his obligations -- that is, acts lawfully. One (wag) wonders is that's the standard Mr. Annan was referring to in his comment that those who dumped toxic waste in Abidgan should be held to account.

  Mr. Annan concluded his press conference Wednesday by saying that today "people are aware of their human rights, and civil society has become very active in this. And I think it is a healthy development. And you also in many countries now are seeing very active press who are being heard and questioning. In some cases they are suppressed, and we should resist that." Hear, hear.

One update: Inner City Press still not not have a copy of the Secretariat's response to U.S. Ambassador John Bolton about housing subsidies to UN employees by governments. Requests for the document, of public interest, have been made to the Secretariat and to the U.S. mission, 24 hours ago. Developing...

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From the September 13, 2006, transcript:

[Inner City Press] Q: Mr. Secretary-General, this is on Cote d'Ivoire, following up on an earlier question. I know that you're meeting on the 20th of September in the G.A., or on the sideline of the G.A. Do you think with the postponed elections, when should they be held? Should President Laurent Gbagbo stay in power until the elections are held? And what about this toxic dumping that's taken place? It's actually by a company, Trafigura, which shows up in the Volcker report in connection with Cotecna.

Also, if you could just address one thing, and this is for your able spokesman, that said, Have you filed your financial disclosure and if so, why not?

SG: Let me take it in turn. First of all, on the question of Cote d'Ivoire, we are going to have a mini-summit here with all the leaders of the political parties and regional leaders. And we will resolve some of the issues that you have raised.

On the question of the toxic waste, I think that this is a serious issue. We need to be careful that the developing world and the poor countries do not become dumping grounds for these kinds of waste, and I hope serious action will be taken against the company and all involved. And of course UN agencies have been active in helping the Government resolve this.

As to your second, your third question, I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I have always done.

[See above]

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