Sunday, July 2, 2006

Undiplomatic spat

Somehow, the lawsuit just isn’t very diplomatic.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai is suing Thailand’s former ambassador to the United Nations for denouncing his quest to be the next secretary-general as “a lost cause.”

The Thai criminal court agreed last week to hear the defamation case, brought after retired Ambassador Asda Jayanama complained in a September op-ed piece in a Thai newspaper that Mr. Surakiart was not qualified to run and had tried to bribe another candidate to step down.

The court’s decision was reported last week in the Bangkok Post.

In recent months, Thai officials have said Mr. Surakiart had directed a foreign ministry official to approach Sri Lanka about withdrawing its candidate, Jayantha Dhanapala, from the race, and said Mr. Surakiart had offered Mr. Dhanapala any other job within the organization if he would step aside.

Mr. Surakiart, who says he has the support of more than 100 nations, has vigorously denied the claims.

Mr. Surakiart, 47, one of four declared candidates to succeed Kofi Annan, whose term expires at the end of this year, said he was reluctant to get into a war of words with Mr. Asda, but felt that his statements were becoming too personal.

Hearings should start in late July, the Bangkok Post reported.

Newest member

The United Nations now has 192 members, with the addition last week of the tiny Republic of .

The republic’s red and black flag was hoisted outside U.N. headquarters on Wednesday, at a ceremony attended by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and several top Montenegrin officials, including President Filip Vujanovic, Foreign Minister Miodrag Vlahovic and the nation’s new U.N. envoy, Nebojsa Kaludjerovic.

“In achieving its independence through a nonviolent and democratic process, conducted in a fair and open way, Montenegro showed the entire world not only its patience, but its political maturity,” Mr. Annan said.

“The people of Montenegro demonstrated that adherence to democratic values and the rule of law offer the most effective way to achieve political goals. And they showed that even the most difficult and sensitive problems can be resolved peacefully. These are especially important messages given the violent past in the Balkan region.”

Last week, the Security Council recommended membership to the General Assembly, which approved it Tuesday afternoon.

The Baltic republic’s 620,000 citizens voted for independence from its union with Serbia two months ago.

Sanctions lifted

The U.N. Security Council agreed last week to lift the sanctions on Liberia’s timber industry, saying the exports will help the destitute nation’s economy recover.

Liberia has been forbidden to export wood or diamonds since 2001, because the government of President Charles Taylor used the revenues to fuel a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.

The diamond ban was extended for six months, although a panel found the current Liberian government to be largely compliant with international norms aimed at halting the use of the gemstones to finance conflicts.

The government plans to export about $100 million worth of hardwoods each year, John Woods, the director of Liberia’s Forest Development Authority, told Reuters news agency last month. He estimated that Monrovia would net $15 million to $20 million in revenues. The industry will generate about 17,000 jobs.

Liberia’s rain forests, which cover nearly half of the West African country, would remain protected, Liberian authorities said.

The council will review the timber situation in six months.

• Betsy Pisik may be reached by e-mail at

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