- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2004

Catch the flick

Those of us who work inside the U.N. headquarters eventually grow somewhat blase about finding undersecretaries-general tucked into relatively private third-floor pay phones, or smacking into the secretary-general’s security detail as we round a corner. And celebrities are always signing up to be goodwill ambassadors.

But this is better.

Hollywood finally is going to shoot a movie inside one of the most fabled and recognizable buildings in the country, and the timing probably couldn’t be better.

Bonjour, Nicole Kidman. Ahalan wasalan, Sean Penn. And a big gracias to producer Sydney Pollack, who apparently buttonholed Secretary-General Kofi Annan for permission to shoot the thriller in the U.N. building.

Wire reports describe “The Interpreter” as a thriller about a U.N. multilingualist who overhears a conversation that could cost her her life.

Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, who presided over the U.N. Security Council in January, told Reuters last week that a senior U.N. official had asked whether the council would consent to the filming.

One could ask how the minicity of a Hollywood production can be grafted into the sometimes-airless world of U.N. regulations and relentless scheduled meetings. The United Nations has not, historically, been Hollywood-friendly.

But with the aged headquarters building falling apart, U.N. officials are desperate to scrape up a billion dollars or more for a major renovation of the glass-walled landmark. With the Bush administration unwilling to play sugar daddy, a little Hollywood exposure probably isn’t a bad thing.

And let’s face it, a couple of genuine Oscar nominees will do more to improve the organizational image than anything the Department of Public Information can put on the U.N. Web site.

If “The Interpreter” is filmed at the United Nations, it could be a first.

There is no formal consensus on where Alfred Hitchcock filmed the 1959 classic “North by Northwest,” in which an arrogant but innocent Cary Grant is pursued through U.N. corridors and across a grand chamber after being framed for an ambassador’s murder.

U.N. officials say no scenes were shot inside the headquarters building.

Genocide watch

Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week proposed creating an international panel to prevent genocide.

“I long for the day when we can say with confidence that, confronted with a new Rwanda or new Srebrenica, the world would respond effectively, and in good time,” he said at a conference on genocide in Stockholm. “But let us not delude ourselves. That day has yet to come.”

The large-scale murders in Bosnia and Rwanda occurred while Mr. Annan was running the U.N. peacekeeping department, and ran up against brick walls of reluctance to get involved in the Security Council.

The committee would have a special rapporteur, or expert, who would report to the council on “massive and systematic violations of human rights and threats to international peace and security.” In theory, the council should be aware of such problems on its own, as set out in the U.N. Charter.

A thankless task

Former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy has a new U.N. job — trying to cool the escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Mr. Axworthy, best known outside Canada for work on the treaty banning land mines, probably will not be spending much time along the disputed 600-mile border. Officials from Eritrea have long said they would not deal with a special envoy because it rejects further contact with Ethiopia.

And last year, Ethiopia rejected the decision of the independent commission set up to draw a definitive international boundary across the desolate stretch of sand separating the two foes, throwing into doubt the value of the special representative.

Mr. Axworthy’s appointment was decided in early December but not announced until Friday.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at UNear@aol.com

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