- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

Politics, as usual

A Web site called StopBolton.org went online this month seeking to create grass-roots opposition to the Bush administration’s nominee for U.N. ambassador, John R. Bolton.

The site includes speeches, remarks and video clips of the famously outspoken undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, all chosen to underline that he is not a friend of multilateralism in general and the United Nations in particular.

The Web site is maintained by the advocacy group Citizens for Global Solutions, which includes members of the Ted Turner-funded Better World Campaign and the United Nations Association of the United States of America among its directors.

Mr. Bolton, meanwhile, has completed the background checks and detailed disclosure packages required of all presidential nominees, according to Washington sources, and his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing has been tentatively scheduled for April 7.

UNHCR shortlist

The shortlist of applicants to be the next U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees was made public last week, a break with tradition that officials here say should bring new transparency to the U.N. hiring process.

The United Nations is making the list public so that nongovernmental organizations and others familiar with the field will be able to weight in, or lobby, for their candidates.

Applicants must have strong fund-raising and management skills, a thorough knowledge of refugee issues and law, and the ability to forcefully advocate the needs of refugees and the internally displaced. English is required, French desired, and other languages welcome.

“Applicants will be interviewed by a search panel over the next few weeks, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan should make his selection by the end of April,” his chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown, said recently.

The refugee agency shortlist:

• Emma Bonino of Italy, member of the European Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs and Subcommittee on Human Rights.

• Hans Dahlgren of Sweden, state secretary for foreign affairs.

• Gareth Evans of Australia, president and chief executive officer of the International Crisis Group.

• Antonio Guterres of Portugal, former foreign minister.

• Soren Jessen-Petersen of Denmark, head of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo and longtime official of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

• Dr. Bernard Kouchner, former French health minister and special representative for Kosovo.

• Kamel Morjane of Tunisia, assistant high commissioner for refugees.

• Mark Verwilghen of Belgium, minister of economy, energy, foreign trade and scientific politics.

The UNHCR job search is something of a test run for the system, which will have to fill a half-dozen senior jobs soon.

Shenanigans abroad

With all the focus on sexual exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one almost forgets about the routine hijinks peacekeepers pull when they are far from home. Like scamming the United Nations out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in phone calls.

Peacekeepers enforcing the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea managed to defraud the mission of $503,000 by abusing a one-minute “grace period” on calls in the past two years.

Soldiers made thousands of calls under 59 seconds, taking advantage of billing lag to ensure they were not charged for calls that didn’t connect. Some people were able to place nearly 100 calls in a single hour, according to a report from the U.N. Board of Auditors.

The mission’s finance unit caught on to the scam in 2003, and has been trying to trace the perpetrators using personal identification number (PIN) codes.

The U.N. Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea keeps logs of personal phone calls and deducts the cost from monthly wages.

Its finance unit is trying to recover money through the U.N. troop-contributing countries’ U.N. mission in New York. So far, $14,000 has been recovered on $364,000 worth of confirmed charges.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at bpisik@washingtontimes.com.

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