- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tough job for Khalizad

If and when Zalmay Khalilzad comes to New York as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, he will find a fresh coat of paint in his official residence atop the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and a job complicated by strong personalities and multinational blocs that have begun to flex their muscle with increasing confidence.

He will find deep suspicions between the North and the South, and between rich and poor nations that have aligned into coalitions to advance or block U.N. restructuring efforts, said a senior U.S. official. The official also described an international “obsession” with Washington’s positions and motives.

“I wouldn’t call it anti-American,” the official said on background. “They either say we are clumsy, or we are too clever and cunning.” That can complicate negotiations for U.S. diplomats, who often find themselves trying to establish trust with wary envoys or regional groups that are openly suspicious of any U.S. initiative.

Mr. Khalilzad also will have to deal with an uneven U.N. diplomatic corps that, as the official candidly characterized it last week, includes former and future Cabinet members of governments that are either singing a swan song or making their names; dissidents gently exiled by their governments; and relatives of national leaders who may not show the “rigor” of career professionals.

In addition to regional groups, the new U.S. ambassador will have to learn how to work with sprawling entities such as the 132-member “Group of 77” developing countries and the 116-member Non-Aligned Movement, both led by charismatic ambassadors who, in Washington’s opinion, don’t always represent the views of their divergent memberships.

U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say that Mr. Khalilzad, who has served as ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, is certain to be confirmed to the U.N. post. The Senate has not scheduled his hearing, which is sure to include some high-heat grilling on how the Bush administration has handled Iraq’s reconstruction and security.

Caution over kitties

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned pet owners in infected areas last week to keep cats away from backyard poultry and other birds after confirming that felines can contract the deadly virus that causes avian flu.

Scientists say scavenging cats in Europe, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey and Russia have gotten infected after mingling with sick poultry or eating their carcasses.

In Java and Sumatra, animal-control officers found that as many as 20 percent of the dead cats in infection zones had bird flu, the FAO said Thursday.

“This raises some concern, not only because cats could act as intermediary hosts in the spread of the H5N1 virus between species, but also because growth in cats might help the virus adapt into a more highly infectious strain that could spark an influenza pandemic,” said FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Muller. According to the Geneva-based World Health Organization, at least 167 persons have died of the H5N1 strain, including a woman in Indonesia yesterday.

However, the Rome-based FAO stressed, cats have not been found to pass the H5N1 virus among one another, nor have they infected humans. The organization advised against killing cats, even in infected areas, because felines can kill rodents and other vermin that can be dangerous to humans.

Betsy Pisik can be reached at bpisik@ washingtontimes.com.

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