- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

Truth and fiction

By day, Jessica Jiji, the editor of U.N. News service, summarizes U.N. reports about political tensions and Security Council meetings and works on the organization’s response to United Nations’ oil-for-food inquiries.

To unwind at night, Ms. Jiji indulges in a different sort of writing — “chick lit.”

The native New Yorker has spent much of the past three years writing, rewriting and editing a romantic novel about an independent woman’s desperate search for a husband.

“Diamonds Take Forever” is a Manhattan tale about a lovelorn radio reporter who is dumped by her good-looking ex-Marine boyfriend and gradually falls in love with the more thoughtful boy-next-door. Along the way, she cries a lot, takes risks at work and discovers her self-worth.

The book will be published this month by Avon Trade, a division of HarperCollins. That makes Ms. Jiji the only woman to work for Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire includes the Fox News Channel.

“Isn’t that funny?” said Ms. Jiji, a skateboarder who shares a number of traits with her fictional heroine, including an Arab father, an American mother and an ex-boyfriend who was in the military.

Ms. Jiji, 40 and the married mother of two young sons, said writing the book was relaxing, with its plot and dialogue joyfully hashed out in stolen moments in the doctor’s waiting room or after her boys fell asleep.

“I worked on this the way other people do crosswords,” she said. “It was light and fun, and I didn’t need a long time to get into it, I just built it brick by brick.”

The book is packed with sex, suffering and insecurity, but it has nothing to do with the United Nations.

Nonetheless, Ms. Jiji warned her U.N. bosses that she was preparing to publish a book under her own name and offered to provide a copy for its lawyers to review. The lawyers declined, despite a bruising incident last year in which U.N. medical officers wrote an unflattering account of their time in U.N. field missions, “Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures.”

“I expected a much harder time from them,” said Ms. Jiji, who has worked with the organization since 1990. “Especially after ‘Emergency Sex.’”

Despite the schedule, the writing took only eight months. Rewriting, she said, took considerably longer.

She’s already begun writing a second novel — another romance for the sexually adventurous urban woman — and wants to dust off early drafts of one of the three screenplays she’s put aside. One — a peacekeeping caper called “Miss Interpreter” — is clearly influenced by her day job.

Rancor all around

Eleven U.N. Security Council ambassadors arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the weekend for the council’s annual field trip. The council has authorized a peacekeeping mission of about 16,000 troops in the troubled Central African nation and is throwing its political support behind Congo’s upcoming elections.

More than 20 million Congolese have registered to vote, but myriad technical, logistical and financial problems plague the process in parts of the enormous nation, said two vice presidents, who met with the delegation yesterday.

President Joseph Kabila had been scheduled to meet the Security Council delegation early yesterday, but the meeting did not take place because he had other engagements, aides said.

Diplomats criticized his failure to appear, calling it a snub of the international community, which is funding 90 percent of the election cost in Congo.

“It’s extraordinary behavior,” one diplomat told Reuters in Kinshasa. “I’m not sure what game he’s playing at, but this visit has been planned for a very long time … . This does not reflect well on him, the international community or the process.”

The elections will be the first multiparty vote in more than 40 years and form the cornerstone of a peace agreement that ended a five-year war that involved six neighboring countries and killed nearly 4 million people.

The elections are expected to be completed by mid-June 2006.

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

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