- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

Come clean, Kofi?

Has Secretary-General Kofi Annan filed the financial disclosure form he has made mandatory for key U.N. officials? No, but he plans to “soon,” a U.N. official said over the weekend.

Mr. Annan, who expanded the scope of the U.N. disclosure rules after the Iraq oil-for-food scandal, was asked point-blank at a press conference Wednesday whether he had filled out the form. “I honor all my obligations to the U.N., and I think that is as I’ve always done,” he replied.

Because the secretary-general is technically not a staff member, he is not obliged to file the disclosure form, in which all undersecretaries-general and assistant secretaries-general must divulge any gifts and significant financial holdings.

After some digestion, reporters pressed his spokesman Thursday for clarification.

“What he said was that he regularly fulfilled his obligations to the organization,” said associate U.N. spokesman Yves Sorokobi. “We should not infer from what he said that he has not done so; this is a bit unfair. We should wait for the next opportunity for him to address this matter directly.”

Mr. Annan’s staff repeated that for days, refusing to clarify their boss’s cryptic response. One said it was unnecessary because he had opened his finances to the Volcker commission investigating the oil-for-food program.

Asked directly whether Mr. Annan has filed the form, which should list any international prizes, income and pensions, as well as gifts worth more than $250, Christopher Burnham, undersecretary-general for administration and management, noted curtly: “I encourage everyone to do so in a timely fashion.”

So did at least one senator — the U.N.-baiting Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who sent a note to the secretary-general on Friday that said the U.S. Senate is poised to approve the U.N. Convention Against Corruption and would welcome the disclosure “as a sign of good faith.”

This year, when the U.N. ethics office was getting off the ground, Mr. Annan’s chief spokesman and his deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, said Mr. Annan would be among the first to submit the form.

Six wait in wings

With the weekend addition of departing Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, there are now six candidates to succeed Mr. Annan when his term ends Dec. 31.

Ms. Vike-Frieberga, 68, is the first woman to declare her intentions, and the first non-Asian to enter the race. A scientist in experimental psychology, she met her husband, Imants Freibergs, also a scientist, while both were studying for their doctorates in Canada; they married in 1960 and have a son and daughter. Though her candidacy is no surprise, it could have a galvanizing effect on the 54-member Asian Group, which says it is its turn at the U.N. helm.

As the official candidate of Lativa, Lithuania and Estonia, Ms. Vike-Frieberga said: “The time has come for a woman to be taken seriously as a candidate for this prestigious position … I wish to encourage women all over the world to continue their efforts to challenge prejudices and stereotypes.”

The field to succeed Mr. Annan is beginning to take shape: South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon swept last week’s straw poll of Security Council members, scoring 14 positive votes and one negative; India’s Shashi Tharoor garnered 10 of 13 votes; Thailand’s Surakiart Sathirathai won nine of 12 votes, Jordan’s Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein had six positive votes out of 10, and Sri Lanka’s Jayantha Dhanapala won three of five votes.

A candidates’ forum and another straw poll are scheduled for Sept. 26 and 28.

The Asian Group, which extends from Turkey to the tiniest Pacific islands, has been shoring up international support for an Asian to succeed Mr. Annan. The African group is firmly behind the effort, and so is Russia.

Under the U.N. Charter, the secretary-general is approved by both the Security Council and the General Assembly. But the first and truest test is the five permanent Security Council members, who can veto a name.

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

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