- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

Not guilty

The U.N. translator accused of running a scheme to help foreigners obtain U.S. visas pleaded not guilty last week to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud.

Vyacheslav Manokhin, a not-so-senior Russian translator, is accused of writing letters on U.N. stationery inviting Uzbek nationals to bogus conferences. Using his U.N. phone extension, prosecutors said, Mr. Manokhin posed as the assistant to a fictitious bureaucrat.

Because U.N. or U.N.-affiliated conferences are considered a legitimate reason for travel, these visa requests are more easily granted by government authorities. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York said at least 15 persons received papers this way, although it is not clear how many of them overstayed their visas.

Mr. Manokhin, 45, is free on $300,000 bail. He is still on staff and on the payroll at the United Nations, although it is not clear whether he has been back at his desk.

Not deadly

Adding embarrassment to potential injury, that vial of deadly phosgene discovered in a U.N. office 10 days ago is more likely a solvent, FBI analysts said.

Nonetheless, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday dispatched three analysts based in Hawaii, Switzerland and the U.N. security office to unravel the mystery of how an unlabeled substance, erroneously thought to be a chemical agent, was wrongly shipped to headquarters a decade ago by the U.N. monitoring team for Iraq — an agency that no longer exists.

Mr. Ban, meanwhile, has outsourced a far more pressing problem: the firing of a bona fide whistleblower by the U.N. Development Program.

The vaunted Ethics Office, which advises the Secretariat, does not have jurisdiction over the independent UNDP. The head investigator requested Mr. Ban’s assistance to investigate the case of Artjon Shkurtaj, but the secretary-general thought it would be more appropriate to allow UNDP to conduct its own inquiry.

Details of the UNDP investigation could be available soon, officials said.

Not disengaged

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush will attend the U.N. General Assembly debate, an annual flurry of public posturing and private meetings that kicks off the autumn diplomatic season.

Mr. Bush will attend the Sept. 23 dinner hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, capping a day of discussion on strategies to combat climate change. The president will deliver his address to the gathered world leaders the next morning. Mrs. Bush will host a luncheon for the spouses focusing on global health and literacy.

Not forgotten

The U.N. peacekeeping mission on the Chad and Central African Republic borders with Darfur took a few steps closer to reality last week, with the European Union pledging to send up to 3,000 troops to the region.

A delegation of U.N. and EU military specialists has just returned from area capitals and the borders where 600,000 refugees are sheltered in unsafe camps. After the council authorizes the mission, the European Union could begin deployment by the end of the month, said French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, who chairs the council for the month of September.

“It is a multifaceted operation with a number of components,” he told reporters last week. “We hope it will be done together with the hybrid force in Darfur to show that the two are mutually reinforcing.”

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

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