- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 28, 2006

Lee successor sought

The World Health Organization will streamline its election procedures after the sudden death a week ago of Executive Director Lee Jong-wook, who earned his M.D. degree at Seoul National University and a master’s of public health degree from the University of Hawaii.

Every five years, the 192-member WHO picks its leaders during an annual assembly that opened this week as scheduled, hours after Dr. Lee’s death following surgery for a blood clot in the brain.

But rather than waiting a year for the next assembly, acting Director Anders Nordstrom of Sweden said a successor could be appointed this week.

“It is absolutely possible for the board next week to decide to have an extraordinary world health assembly,” he said in Geneva. “It could just be a day meeting to then de facto appoint a new director-general.”

The WHO is expected to focus this year on resolving intellectual-property laws that slow the distribution of drugs in the developing world and on halting the spread of infectious diseases HIV/AIDS, avian influenza and tuberculosis.

The new U.N. global coordinator for TB, former Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, will make his debut this week during the U.N. AIDS conference that opens here Wednesday. Some 5,000 people die of tuberculosis every day, and more than eight million new cases are reported each year, according to U.N. statistics.

The disease has spread in areas where AIDS and other conditions have weakened the immune system.

Mr. Sampaio, president of Portugal from 1996 until January, is charged with coordinating fundraising efforts during the 10-year eradication program.

Darfur visit nears

Members of the U.N. Security Council will take their annual field trip next week to the Darfur region of western Sudan and to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to review the state of two of the most expensive peacekeeping missions they’ve authorized.

British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry and Jean-Marc de la Sabliere of France will lead the nine-day expedition, which will include visits to Khartoum, Sudan; Darfur; Kinshasa, Congo, and other areas.

Darfur, of course, is the crux of business with Sudan, which has recently signed a peace accord with most of the rebel groups. The two-year-old African Union peacekeeping mission there will soon be rehatted as a U.N. mission, but the humanitarian crisis has hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced families in its grip.

The transition to a U.N. operation would be sensitive and militarily complex, Mr. de la Sabliere told reporters on Friday. He stressed for Khartoum’s benefit that the council is “committed to the sovereignty, the unity, the independence and territorial integrity of Sudan.”

“None of that will be affected by the transition to the United Nations operation,” he said.

The council will also try to get a handle on the Lord’s Resistance Army, the militia that has terrorized northern Uganda and southern Sudan for more than 20 years. Its leader, Joseph Kony, was recently photographed in Sudan, though he is under indictment by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

From there, the group — including 10 of the 15 Security Council ambassadors, but not U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton, will travel to Congo, which is to hold elections at the end of next month.

Tony Goodman dies

And finally, a moment of respect and recognition for Anthony Goodman, 74, veteran U.N. correspondent for Reuters, who died last week after a long battle with cancer and heart disease.

A Briton with broad interests, Mr. Goodman was a reporter whose deep knowledge and experience were supplemented by voracious reading, excellent contacts and a hard-drive memory. He could talk endlessly about the Middle East and Cyprus, but unlike most people, he was interesting to listen to. He was a gentleman reporter who listened closely and wrote straight.

After 40 years in the business, 20 of them at the United Nations, Mr. Goodman retired in 2000 with one final scoop under his byline: Breaking the news of the Clinton-Castro handshake on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly debate.

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

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