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As UN Loses Its Mister Blue, Severed Fingers, Bush's Bathroom Run and Lavrov's Bar Recalled

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- As the UN Headquarters building empties out to be gut rehabilitated, its Security Council set to move from its longtime second floor chamber down to the UN basement, an era is ending. On Monday the UN's genial "Mister Blue," Troy Setiawan the Focal Person for Security Council documentation in Security Council Affairs Division retired after more than 30 years at the UN.

   Inner City Press dubbed Troy "Mister Blue" because he has been in charge of distributing version of Security Council Resolutions and Presidential Statements when they become final, or "go into blue" in the arcane parlance of the UN. His name has appeared in the top fax line of such final drafts for years. On Tuesday or soon thereafter the name at the top will change.

Beyond his work at the UN, which had him stay overnight in the building the night that NATO began bombing the Serbian forces in Kosovo, waiting to distribute the expected letter to the Council (it didn't arrive until 10 a.m., after Troy had caught an hour's sleep on one of the long couches in the UN basement), Troy is an accomplished photographer. He and his wife live on Roosevelt Island, which which he has taken the tram each morning to arrive at the UN at 8 a.m..

   Once when the tram was broken, he shared a cab ride home with Kofi Annan and "Johnny Pico," author of Man Without a Gun. Troy recounts that right after Annan was elected Secretary General, the hallway of his Roosevelt Island building filled up with UN Security officers. Then Kofi moved to the Waldorff, then to the S-G's residence on Beekman Place. Troy won a UN cooking contest.

   At an impromptu retirement party late Monday afternoon, Troy recounted his most memorable moments in the Security Council, as well as offering tip for cooking Swiss cheese and eggs on baguette and other delicacies.

  His bloodiest memory, Troy said, involved the severing a doorway inside the Council's chambers of a staff member's finger. The UN security officer who had closed the door was reported disinterested. Inner City Press asked, could he sue? The head of the Security Council Affairs Division, who organized and spoke at the goodbye party, said that the staff member wasn't the kind to sue, but that it was a legitimate journalistic question. Then Inner City Press took leave, so allow the real stories to be told.

George W. Bush, Condi Rice and Khalilzad, bathroom note and wrote PRST not shown

   Troy and his colleagues reminiscenced about the time that then - U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad was given the wrong version of a Presidential Statement to read out. After this erroneous reading, the Security Council Affairs Division ran to reconvene the Council for a second reading. There was difficulty in finding any representative of Belgium. UN TV, which also had to be recalled to film the recreated Council meeting, was asked not to film Belgium's empty seat but did, perhaps in retaliation for having been called back, a SCAD staffer recollected.

  Troy recounted when George W. Bush passed Condi Rice a note in the Security Council, that he had to go to the bathroom. Bush was taken to the Secretary-General's small office to the side of the Council chamber. On Bush's way back, he came through the office Troy was using. "Hello Mister President," Troy said. Then Ambassador Bolton came in, and Troy was asked to keep checking to see when the speaker in the Council, the President of Congo -- "another general" clinging on to power, a staff opined -- would finish, to go back into the Chamber only at that time.

Mister Blue, in red tie, in the middle of the action

   There used to be a bar to the side of the Council, which a past director of SCAD would repair to after staff meeting that ran to eight or nine o'clock. Diplomats shared drinks, and then passed resolutions much faster than today, staff members laughed. When the UN's contractor closed the bar, complaining that since it was only open during Security Council business it was not economical, Russia's then Ambassador to the UN (and now Foreign Minister) Lavrov complained. "That's why they put the vending machines out there," a staffer said, adding that it didn't satisfy Lavrov.

   Inner City Press' contribution to the proceedings was the story of Greece's past Ambassador, coming to the vending machine during a Council meeting and losing five dollars by, after paying, sliding open the door to an already empty container next to the sandwich he wanted. While the Council continued to meet, the Ambassador asked Inner City Press to help recoup his five dollars. "That's the non-Permanent Five," the story ended, in what passes for Security Council humor.

   Troy opened the office each day at 8 a.m., because he has woken up at 5 a.m. since high school. Tomorrow, he said, he may sleep in until 7 a.m.. At the UN, much is being lost.

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  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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