- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2006

Ban, Ban Ki-moon

With slick orators such as Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton in the house, it was soft-spoken Ban Ki-moon who rocked the mic at Friday night’s U.N. Correspondents Association ball.

The incoming secretary-general, who will be sworn in Thursday morning for a five-year term, delivered a brief, warm and unexpectedly funny appearance before scores of well-dressed members of the usually scruffier press corps, and diplomats and bureaucrats.

“My name is Ban, but not James Ban,” said the sassy tuxedo-clad South Korean. “I take office in ‘07. I am not shaken, but you will be stirred.” He thanked Mr. Clinton — who, in oddly flat remarks, lectured the room about tsunami recovery — for not seeking the secretary-general job himself. And then he gave a shout-out to Mr. Annan’s tailor, who came up with his signature “weekend crisis” black turtleneck look.

Mr. Ban noted that he had acquired many nicknames while serving as South Korea’s foreign minister, including the “slippery eel” and the “Teflon diplomat” — both reflecting reporters’ frustration with their inability to pin him down. Though the names reflect different cultures, Mr. Ban warned, “they all point to the same thing … Like Bond, I will elude you.” The eighth U.N. secretary-general then surveyed the room before crooning his own Christmas carol: “Ban Ki-moon is coming to town.” Mr. Annan — clearly relieved to be counting the days until he and wife Nane can take “a long holiday underground” — had some advice to his successor: Apply the principle of geographic rotation at press conferences. For every question about Iraq, he suggested, insist that the press ask questions about Iceland’s demographic composition and the fine points of the Economic and Social Council’s agenda.

Bolton has last word

On the subject of comings and goings, let’s let John R. Bolton, the departing U.S. Permanent Representative here, have the last word.

Mr. Bolton, who returned briefly to the United Nations after President Bush announced that he would not try to renominate the outspoken ambassador, told reporters Wednesday that he would not be commenting about his days fighting the bureaucratic windmills in Turtle Bay or his experiences inside the U.N. Security Council.

And he seemed to mean it, declining “personal questions” such as how he wanted his nearly year-and-a-half tenure to be remembered or even confirm when he would leave New York.

“You know, in many years of service in the federal government, I’ve seen a lot of newspaper stories that start out something like, ‘In a wide-ranging exit interview, Mr. X said the following ….’ He told reporters: “I’m not going to give any wide-ranging exit interviews, or even any exit interviews, because I think until I leave federal service, it’s not my personal opinions that matter, it’s the policy of the United States.” Mr. Bolton attended the private White House dinner for Mr. Annan but would not be drawn into descriptions. Asked directly if they all made nice, the ambassador was predictably free of the touchy-feely and slithery subjunctive that most of his peers would have employed.

“Nobody sang ‘Kumbaya,’ ” the feisty ambassador snorted, clearly preferring to discuss the council’s morning discussion of Somalia.

Friday was Mr. Bolton’s last day at the United Nations, according to officials in the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. The ambassador and his wife Gretchen had split their time between the Washington suburbs and their suite at the Waldorf Astoria, the official residence of the U.S. ambassador for more than 20 years.

• Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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