- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

Happy New Year. Bye
U.N. drug control chief Pino Arlacchi announced to his board of directors Wednesday that he will vacate his office on Dec. 31, saying he wants to give his still-unnamed successor a smoother transition.
But Mr. Arlacchi's contract as the executive director of the U.N. Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention runs through the end of June, and U.N. officials in New York and Vienna, where the drug office is based, say that the former Italian senator will continue to draw a paycheck for the next six months.
"His contract will be honored," said Manoel de Almeida e Silva, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The base pay for a U.N. undersecretary general is about $167,000 a year, plus cost-of-living adjustments, a housing allowance, supplements for dependants and other add-ons.
U.N. officials describe the arrangement as something of a golden handshake, offered to Mr. Arlacchi to ease the sting of his being forced from a job to which he so publicly clung. A U.N. official in Vienna defended the arrangement, saying Mr. Arlacchi is leaving his office, but not the United Nations.
"Of course he is at the disposal of the secretary-general until that time" when the contract expires, he said.
A former Italian senator and famed Mafia foe, Mr. Arlacchi was hired five years ago to run the drug and crime control office, which is the organization's focal point for fighting organized crime rings. Mr. Arlacchi was criticized in a series of investigations by the U.N. watchdog agency.
Over the past two years, wary donor nations have earmarked most of their contributions for specific purposes, potentially crippling the agency by limiting its ability to set its own agenda, according to internal oversight reports.
In a final note of irony, the disgruntled ex-employee whose criticism of Mr. Arlacchi led to the latter's disgrace and who was excoriated himself for allowing his detailed resignation letter to be published on a pro-drug Web site resurfaced at U.N. headquarters this month.
Michael von der Schulenberg, an expert on Central Asia and the opium trade, has a short-term contract to work with Lakhdar Brahimi's Afghanistan team, which is part of the peacekeeping department.
It has not been announced who will succeed Mr. Arlacchi in Vienna. The smart money is on an interim appointment for British physician and drug expert Hamid Ghodse, Iran-born chairman of the U.N. International Narcotics Control Board.

A hidden war cost
Clearing Afghanistan of land mines and other unexploded ordnance will cost at least a half-billion dollars and take years, according to participants at an international conference on rebuilding the country.
The United Nations estimates there may be between 5 million and 10 million land mines in Afghan villages, forests, farmland and pastures the lethal legacy of two decades of civil war. As humanitarian aid coordinator Martin Barber told reporters a month ago, the accounting for unexploded ordnance is so imprecise that one could take a best guess "and then add a zero."
Last week's conference for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and others interested in the reconstruction of Afghanistan called on donors and governments to contribute to land mine-clearance efforts.
"Based on more than a decade of practical experience, it is roughly estimated that elimination of the land-mine problem in Afghanistan would cost $500 - $600 million," said a statement issued by the 27 NGOs at the Tokyo conference.
Complicating matters is that U.S. warplanes have been dropping cluster bombs, each containing many bomblets, over Afghanistan. Scores of the smaller bombs do not explode on impact, lying on the surface or sinking into the mud to remain a deadly hazard.
The U.S. Defense Department insists its use of the heavily criticized cluster bombs is justified. Washington said last week it will double its contribution to de-mining efforts in Afghanistan to $7 million next year.
Japan, which has already committed itself to funding Afghan reconstruction and peacekeeping efforts, will apparently take a lead in the land-mine clearance as well. Two weeks ago, Tokyo passed a new law allowing Japanese Self-Defense Forces to participate in U.N. peacekeeping missions in specific functions, such as de-mining.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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