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At UN, Montreal's $2.2 Billion Proposal Disappears, Bookstore Ban and Questions

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 22 -- If a $2.2 billion proposal is made to the UN, to whom is it made, who gets to reject it and why? On Monday Inner City Press asked the spokespeople for the Secretary-General and General Assembly President about a report in the Canadian press over the weekend, that a "proposal was recently made" to the UN to move its headquarters to Montreal's Old Port, but was "rejected." Beyond the newspaper report, there are 17 architectural drawings online.  So is it all just a figment of someone's imagination? Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson:

Inner City Press: There's an article in the Canadian press over the weekend saying that Montreal made a $2.2 billion proposal to the UN to move the UN to Montreal.  Have you ever heard of that?

Spokesperson:  I've heard of it, we are aware of those reports.

Inner City Press: Is it true?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.

Inner City Press: There was never a proposal made?

Spokesperson:  Well, maybe there was a proposal made but it was not accepted if it was made.

Inner City Press: But to whom would it have been made?  I mean, would you just write a letter to the Secretary-General and say...?

Spokesperson:  Well I don't know exactly how it was made but I can check on that for you, sure.

            Six hours later, the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General still did not have information, noting that Vienna and Germany have made such proposals in the past. But this is described as "recent." An email to the Canadian mission in New York was not returned. Inner City Press asked the spokesman for the Assembly President:

Inner City Press: Is it fair to ask you if the President of the General Assembly, as such, received a letter or a proposal, or even if itís just a letter, if something to this effect was submitted to the President of the General Assembly?

Spokesperson:  I'm absolutely not aware of anything of this sort coming to the President's Office.

         So are they saying that the Canadian press just made it up?

            At a book signing event by his former boss, Han Seung-soo, Ban Ki-moon was approached by a correspondent -- not this one -- who wanted to pose a question.  Mr. Ban reportedly asked, what's your question? The correspondent posed it. Mr. Ban declined, saying, "I don't answer questions in this...".

Mr. Ban, Mr.  and Mrs. Han, $2.2 billion UN-to-Montreal proposal not shown

  The correspondent had been particularly enterprising, as Mr. Ban's attendance had not been included in the teaser for the book signing read-out at the noon briefing:

a book launch.  That's going to take place in the United Nations Bookshop, which will be hosting Dr. Han Seung-soo, former President of the General Assembly -- that was during the fifty-sixth session -- and the Secretary-Generalís Special Envoy on Climate Change.  Dr. Han is to introduce his new book which is entitled Beyond the Shadow of 9/11: A Year at the United Nations General Assembly.  He will... participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience.  He will then sign copies.

            One wag -- again, not this one -- mused that the non-announcement of Ban's appearance in the UN Bookstore with Mr. Han might be a local version of the 38th floor's anger at the Washington Post for having reported on Friday that Ban's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee is slated to become UN chief of staff in Iraq. The report was discouraged, because it allegedly might raise security issues. So the unannounced bookstore appearance with a previous boss: another security issue? These wags can be tough critics. Inner City Press, less so, as in this follow-up to another Washington Post story (and previous Inner City Press report) posed at Monday's noon briefing:

Inner City Press: There's a story in Sunday's Washington Post about the hiring by the Secretary-General and it says, statistically, it says this jump from 54 people from the Republic of Korea to now 66, it calls it a 20 per cent increase but also quotes the Secretary-General saying that he has intentionally deliberately tried to distance himself from Korea.  What explains the 20 per cent increase?  What's the Secretary-General's understanding of that?  Is it simply more people in Korea becoming...?

Spokesperson:  Well the Secretary-General's understanding is that they are still under quota, considering the contribution of Korea to the Organization, so this is not really an issue.  Those people are qualified people who have been, who have come through a competitive process and...

Inner City Press: No, I don't dispute any of that.  I guess I'm just wondering the connection between his quote and the number.  Does he feel that there's any -- whether itís good or it could be a positive thing -- is there any relation between him being Secretary-General and the 20 per cent leap in Republic of Korea staffers?

Spokesperson:  Not directly, no.  I think it's linked to the fact that Korea has increased its contribution to the UN.

            Contribution of what? If money, that correlation was disclaimed by the spokesperson later in the briefing. If contribution of staffers, that's a tautology: the increase is explained by the increase. An observer noted that there's be nothing wrong with Mr. Ban encouraging more South Koreans to serve: but then don't speak of distancing from the Republic of Korea.

   Interim update on the UN Department of Management, whose director is reportedly headed to Mexico for UN Day, while employees are interrogated in an attempt to weed out whistleblowers: contrary to the Orwellian justification for the crackdown, when one is blowing the whistle on, among other, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, one cannot be expected to complain first to OIOS. And after the Ethics Office's failure to offer protection, who would go there? To be continued.

* * *

Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army.  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