Monday, September 22, 2008

Invisible Moon leaves UN 'bereft of any leadership' - Scottish news, sport & business headlines direct from Scotland

Published Date: 22 September 2008
WORLD leaders gather this week at what promises to be a stormy United Nations (UN) General Assembly, with many questioning if secretary general Ban Ki-Moon is up to the job.
Just 20 months since being appointed, the 64-year-old South Korean is nicknamed "Mr Invisible" by his own staff for his ultra-low profile.

In stark contrast to his charismatic predecessor Kofi Annan, Mr Ki-Moon has conspicuously avoided the limel
ight, leading critics to claim he has left the UN bereft of leadership.

One official complained they "never see him" and he is "very secret".

In a year riven by crises, with Kosovo, Darfur, Zimbabwe and Georgia blowing up in quick succession, staff struggle to remember a worthwhile comment by Mr Ki Moon.

His strongest language came in July, when he described Zimbabwe's flawed election as "illegitimate". But, as critics point out, he made the comment only after the UN Security Council had itself used the same term.

They say the mood is ripe for an inspiring secretary general to follow the lead of its most famous incumbent, Dag Hammarskjold; he set the template, acknowledging that while he had little direct power, his high profile gave him the chance to act as "the world's conscience".

Mr Ki Moon's apparent lack of passion on the crises facing the world, from AIDs and global warming to terrorism and war, has left many wondering why he lobbied so hard for the job.

A common refrain among disgruntled staff is he is more secretary than general.

In his office on the 38th floor, Mr Ki-Moon has surrounded himself with a cadre of South Korean diplomats led by his chief of staff Kim Won Sou, creating resentment among workers lower down the building.

"The staff is sick and tired of the impunity extended by the office of the secretary general to senior managers for their failings", one staff blog reads.

Some of this resentment is to be expected: Mr Ki Moon has revolutionised the UN's famously crony-driven recruitment policy, stipulating that all staff are on five-year contracts, rather than jobs for life.

Yet with a world more divided than at any time since the Cold War, there are complaints that he is too frightened of criticism to take a stand.

This week China is expected to become embroiled in arguments over Darfur and its support for the Sudanese government, while Russia and America will clash over Georgia.

Condoleezza Rice, America's secretary of state, is guaranteed a frosty reception from Moscow's delegates after she asserted last week that Russian leaders "bully" and "threaten" and "lash out".


IRAN'S president will outline the "peaceful" nature of his country's nuclear activities and project ideas for global peace when he addresses the UN tomorrow, Iranian media say.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who relishes the international spotlight as much as he courts controversy, faces plenty of both in New York, where American Jewish groups have planned a week of protests against his infamous 2005 remark that Israel should be "wiped off the map".

Yesterday, at a military parade to commemorate the start of Iran's eight-year war with Iraq, Mr Ahmadinejad indirectly warned Israel and America that Iran's armed forces would "break the hand before he pulls the trigger" of any aggressor that targeted his country's nuclear facilities.

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