Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Secretary General Ka-who? A peek at the U.N.'s high-flying rumor mill

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Posted By Colum Lynch

Let's face it -- there is a certain mystique surrounding the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.You get the feeling that they give access to troves of privileged information straight from foreign dignitaries whose credibility is further bolstered by their exotic names and high-flying titles.

In reality, those movers-and-shakers sometimes have no idea what they are talking about. Take a look at this cable, marked "confidential": it recounts a June 25, 2006 meeting at the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania between U.S. officials and Yves Horent, at the time head of the European Commission humanitarian aid office.

Entitled "Next U.N. Secretary General predicted by UNHCR and EU Aid Commissioner," the cable describes Horent passing on the latest rumor he had picked up on the much anticipated race for U.N. Secretary General. Both Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, and Louis Michel, European Union Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, believe that the next United Nations Secretary will be Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Pakistan's Foreign Minister," the cable noted. "Horent noted that both officials, who visited refugee camps in western Tanzani June 15, were certain of Kasuri's selection."

The revelation must have come as something of a surprise to the Americans. Ban Ki moon, the South Korean foreign minister who ultimately won the race, was more than four months into an active campaign for the job, canvassing leaders of the key Security Council members. In a meeting with US official in Seoul the following month, Ban "reports no major opposition at this point" to his candidacy, though he fretted that his candidacy might have problems if the US didn't soon show support.

The U.S. seemed to be quite happy with the prospects of Ban's appointment, though in anothercable released by WikiLeaks they did detail some potential "remaining hurdles" to a successful campaign. They included a serious deterioration in South Korea' relations with North Korean, a possible campaign by Japan to thwart his candidacy, or the prospects of an Asian dark horse emerging with the power to win he blessing of the permanent five members.

As for Kasuri, the name didn't come up.

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