U.N. Report

Senate whip-snapper

At the United Nations, they don’t have a lot of nice things to say about Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee, the first-term senator who called for Kofi Annan’s resignation because of the U.N. official’s role in the oil-for-food program in Iraq.

But they might have to start sweet talking soon enough.

Mr. Coleman is tapped by insiders as likely to take over the international economic policy, export and trade promotion subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a perch that would give him direct oversight of U.N. affairs for the Senate.

“Aw, wouldn’t that be fun,” said an aide in the senator’s office when asked about the possibility. He indicated that the thought had never crossed the senator’s mind or that of anyone else in the office.

But people who watch the complex calculus of subcommittee assignments say Mr. Coleman is something of an odds-on favorite for the post.

Subcommittee assignments are awarded through a mix of seniority and interest. If, as appears likely, the more senior senators on the Foreign Relations Committee snatch up the Western Hemisphere, European and the newly popular Near Eastern and South Asia portfolios, Mr. Coleman will have a clear shot at the international policy subcommittee, most recently chaired by Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

“Oh, you know he wants it,” one insider giggled. “Of course, he does.”

That feeling is echoed, with varying degrees of restraint, by others on Capitol Hill.

“If Lincoln Chafee gets bumped from [Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs], he’ll likely take [Western Hemisphere],” said one source, referring to Mr. Coleman’s current subcommittee assignment, which focuses on Latin America.

Last week, Mr. Coleman tried to travel with a delegation through the tsunami-hit areas of South Asia, but ended up in Iraq. The trip was arranged long before the disaster, and logistics have been troublesome.

Although some subcommittee assignments already have been announced, Hill sources say they don’t expect the Foreign Relations Committee assignments to be sorted out until later this month.

And speaking of the oil-for-food scandal, the U.N. inquiry will issue dozens of internal audits related to the program, starting today. An initial finding will be released later this month, according to former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who heads the probe.

Tsunami devastation

UNESCO distributed Thursday a list of World Heritage Sites thought to be submerged or destroyed by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami. Among them: Sri Lanka’s port town of Galle is said to have suffered “important damage,” particularly the ancient harbor. The fort there appears to be intact, however.

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