- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 20, 2005

Hariri probe set

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed an Irish police commissioner last week to lead the international investigation into the fiery assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a decision that was accepted reluctantly by the Lebanese government.

The Security Council, egged on by Washington and Paris, demanded an investigation into the Feb. 14 bombing, which killed 16 other persons and triggered new calls for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. But public statements from Beirut over the weekend were less than welcoming.

Lebanese Minister of State Karam Karam on Saturday rejected any foreign investigation, saying that Lebanese authorities were capable of finding the assassins on their own.

Then yesterday, the government said it would cooperate with the U.N. team, but not allow a full international inquiry as demanded by the United States.

“An international investigation is very different from sending international experts. An international investigation means the international community or another country does not trust the Lebanese state and its judicial authorities,” Mr. Karam told Al Jazeera television.

Lebanon’s defense minister, Abdel Raheem Mourad, also had said initially that he thought Beirut would boycott the U.N. probe.

The United Nations announced the appointment of Irish Police Deputy Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald early Friday evening, when many diplomats and staff had begun the three-day weekend.

Although council resolutions, in theory, are legally binding, U.N. officials cannot enter a country uninvited.

Negroponte drops by

Former U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte dropped by the United Nations on Friday to visit with Mr. Annan and old colleagues in the Security Council’s permanent five members — China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States — to ask them to increase their assistance to Iraq.

The visit was scheduled long before the veteran diplomat, who has been serving as U.S. ambassador to Baghdad for eight months, was named by President Bush on Thursday to serve as the first intelligence czar.

“Regrettably, there are acts of violence in Iraq every day. But, hopefully, with the election of a new government and the efforts that are being made to train and equip and motivate the Iraqi armed forces, that situation will improve over time,” Mr. Negroponte told reporters.

“I think it would be extremely helpful if other members of the international community could join us, join the coalition in providing whatever assistance is possible to the government and people of Iraq.”

Let the games begin

The U.N. Staff Union has won preliminary approval for up to 1,000 employees to be paid while participating in a competition of darts, bridge and table tennis in Greece.

The union seeks up to five days’ leave with pay for staffers who travel to Crete April 21 to 25 for the Inter-Agency Games, which seeks to build team spirit among the U.N. staff in far-flung duty posts.

The idea has the approval of the Office of Human Resources Management, and needs a final approval from Catherine Bertini, undersecretary-general for management.

Guy Candusso, a union officer, said employees of U.N. agencies, funds and programs get paid leave for the days that they attend the games, but headquarters staff use up vacation time to compete in basketball, swimming, football, volleyball, chess and petanque, a French game similar to lawn bowling.

“This is a good opportunity to meet people from other postings in the U.N. system, it builds camaraderie and spirit,” said Mr. Candusso, who noted that staff members pay for their own travel.

March competition for readers: Badminton? Mah-jongg? Suggest some other games in which U.N. staff might be uniquely skilled to compete. Interesting submissions will be reported next month, with credit or anonymously.

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

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