- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sudan flights halted

Sudan suspended some U.N. operations yesterday, saying U.N. helicopters had given a lift to an unidentified rebel leader.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement of outrage over the weekend and demanded an explanation from Jan Pronk, the senior U.N. official in Khartoum.

The government said U.N. helicopters had carried “a leader of an armed movement who works to undermine the Darfur peace accord.” The man was identified later as Suleiman Adam Jamous, who refused to sign the May 5 Darfur agreement.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jamal Ibrahim said yesterday that the ban would not affect the two largest aid agencies, the World Food Program and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“It was clear that the act was planned to take place behind the back of Sudanese authorities,” the Khartoum government said Saturday, after the reported flight from El Fasher, Darfur’s largest town, to Kadugli in the southeast. The United Nations is preparing to take over or enlarge a peacekeeping mission of the African Union in Darfur, where more than 300,000 people have died and 2 million have been displaced by fighting involving government-backed militias and resistance fighters.

After a recent visit by 10 ambassadors from the U.N. Security Council and separate meetings with Jean-Marie Guehenno, U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Sudan opposes further international intervention.

President Omar al-Bashir said recently that having Western peacekeepers in Darfur would be like being “re-colonized.” U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri declined to comment yesterday, saying the organization had not received a formal complaint.

Architect backs out

Fritz Reuter, the architect and general contractor who took on the renovation of the U.N. headquarters complex, has bailed out less than a year after accepting the job.

He will return to New York Weill Cornell Medical Center to oversee expansion of the project that he had completed just before entering the U.N. paper mill.

There is no word on who will replace him, although Mark Malloch Brown, the deputy U.N. secretary-general, noted that when a man of Mr. Reuter’s stature leaves a job so publicly frustrated, it is much more difficult to find a suitable replacement.

Mr. Reuter had grown weary of financial foot-dragging and micromanagement by U.N. members.

Meanwhile, on TV

Very little on the United Nations’ chock-full agenda has gripped the world body as the World Cup has, with men in short pants and cheering crowds pouring out of every television screen and computer monitor in the 38-story U.N. building.

Last week, diplomats sneaked down to the basement computers or the delegates’ coffee lounge to watch the game on broadband, while employees crowded around the TV screens in the lobby that are usually tuned to CNN.

But U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, stuck in the plane home from Geneva, was one of the international few who could not watch the team from his native Ghana narrowly beat the United States team with a disputed penalty kick.

“I got a message on the plane — actually, my envoy for sport for peace and development, [Adolf] Ogi, sent me a message through the captain saying, ‘Ghana leads, 2-1, at halftime.’ But of course they kept me in agony,” he told reporters Friday. “I didn’t know what had happened in the second half.”

It was only toward the end of the flight that the attendant told him of Ghana’s 2-1 victory in Nuremberg, Germany.

Mr. Annan, who watched a tape of the game when he got back to New York, said, “I know the U.S. played well, but they lost to the better side. This is what happens in soccer.”

Asked about tomorrow’s Ghana-Brazil match, the secretary-general beamed with pride: “I don’t think my boys have reached their limit,” he said.

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

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