- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Goodbye, WFP chief

James Morris, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told his board of directors last week that he does not intend to seek a second term in April, when his five-year commitment ends.

Sources say Mr. Morris, a U.S. agribusiness executive who has emphasized the feeding and care of Africa’s hungriest children during his tenure, did not reveal what he expects to do next.

Setting aside U.N. protocols and search committees, his announcement last week effectively gives the Bush administration, which foots fully half of the WFP bills, 10 months to come up with a successor, and the next secretary-general four months to accept the nomination.

An American has led the WFP for the past decade, and the Rome-based agency likely will stay in the hands of someone Washington trusts.

Rights unit’s debut

The Human Rights Council will hold its inaugural meeting this week in Geneva, a debut that observers say will set the tone for the new group’s work.

There is hope in most quarters that the HRC will be a more credible body than the one it replaces. Its 47 members have agreed to have their human rights records monitored, a significant step intended to discourage the worst offenders from seeking membership.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will address the opening session this morning, cautioning members not to join the usual conflicts, disagreements and pile-ons, such as the annual resolutions condemning Israel.

“Those who sought and won election to this council must be prepared for debate and disagreement, but must also be united in their determination to uphold and implement human rights without fear or favor,” according to advance copies of Mr. Annan’s remarks.

“They must recognize, as the General Assembly did when it established this council, the importance of universality and objectivity, and the need to eliminate double standards.”

Among the business to be conducted at the first session and throughout the year is sorting out leadership and timelines and, of course, building the framework of one of the most closely watched experiments in recent U.N. history.

Heartland heartburn

It’s possible that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has a sense of humor. Or, more likely, he always has had one, but with just six months left on the job, he’s starting to let his deviltry show. A little.

At a nearly news-free press conference Thursday, Mr. Annan was asked again to defend or reject remarks of his deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, that were interpreted by U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton as critical of the U.S. heartland.

Mr. Annan, who went to school in Minnesota, said he had met plenty of Middle Americans and found them to be intelligent, kind and understanding, as well as “very sophisticated voters.”

To prove his point, he mentioned three prominent Minnesota Democrats — Hubert H. Humphrey, Walter F. Mondale and Paul Wellstone. The remark diplomatically dissed the current senator, Norm Coleman, who has called for Mr. Annan’s resignation to facilitate the Iraq oil-for-food investigation.

Not 20 minutes later, Mr. Bolton was approached by reporters in search of a story. Still no repudiation, the ambassador was told.

“I can tell you that criticism of the intelligence of the American people is never a smart thing to do politically,” said Mr. Bolton, adding: “I don’t want to get into it any further. I thought it was a mistake; it remains my view, and that of my superiors.”

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

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