Tuesday, November 7, 2006

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan today will nominate Josette Sheeran, a senior State Department official and former managing editor of The Washington Times, to be executive director of the World Food Program, U.N. officials said.

The five-year appointment remains subject to approval later today by the WFP executive board, which is considered a formality. Miss Sheeran is expected to take up her duties as head of the Rome-based agency, which administers nearly $3 billion in annual food aid, early next year.

At the State Department, where she has served since August 2005 as undersecretary of state for business, economic and agricultural affairs, Miss Sheeran is charged with promoting the interests of U.S. farmers and business owners in global policy discussions, according to her official biography.

Before that, she served as deputy in the office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, where she negotiated agreements with African, Asian and Latin American countries.

From 1997 to 2000, Miss Sheeran was president and chief executive officer of Empower America, where she was a high-profile presence on the media, academic and fundraising circuits. She was an editor of The Washington Times from its founding in 1982 until she left as managing editor of The Times in 1997 to join Empower America.

Miss Sheeran, 52, was selected by Mr. Annan last year to sit on a panel advising the United Nations on how to more effectively deliver humanitarian relief and development assistance.

The report of the High-Level Panel on System-wide Coherence, a group that includes leaders of Pakistan, Mozambique, Norway and senior ministers of several other countries, is to be released Thursday.

Miss Sheeran was chosen for the WFP post from a short list, which was never formally announced but was said by Secretariat officials to have included WFP Asia director Tony Banbury, an American with ties to the Clinton White House; Swiss development minister Walter Fust; and Robert Fowler, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations.

But the appointment of Miss Sheeran, the Bush administration’s nominee, had been expected: Washington contributes about one-third of the WFP’s $2.9 billion budget and often applies pressure to ensure its nominees are successful. An American has managed the WFP for about the past 15 years.

The WFP is one of the United Nations’ most prominent agencies, with primary responsibility for feeding the victims of conflicts, natural disasters and long-building famines. Last year, the agency fed nearly 100 million people in 82 countries.

Miss Sheeran will oversee a staff of 10,500 across the world, who deliver 4.2 million tons of high-energy biscuits, enriched milk and flour, and other food staples to people in need.

The United States contributes about $1 billion a year to the WFP, in cash as well as food staples and logistical support. The European Commission is generally the second largest donor, with $200 million, and Japan is third, with about $136 million in voluntary contributions.

This is likely to be the last appointment by Mr. Annan, who leaves office on Dec. 31. The United States has called on him repeatedly not to make any long-term appointments that will bind his successor, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea.

However, the administration lobbied hard for Miss Sheeran’s appointment, according to U.N. sources, who said Washington wants to keep an eye on an agency whose work is largely U.S.-funded.

Sources in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration initially had planned to nominate Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, who is not seeking re-election today. Instead, Mr. Kolbe was nominated to head the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The fund’s board met last week but was unable to agree on a new executive director.

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