Global Policy Forum

American Gets UN Political Affairs for First Time


By Evelyn Leopold

February 9, 2007

An American was appointed to head U.N. political affairs on Friday after the United States vied for the first time to hold the post that negotiates agreements in a variety of crisis points around the world, the United Nations announced. B. Lynn Pascoe, the current U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia was the Bush administration's choice to succeed Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria, a post that Britain had occupied for decades before Gambari took over. His name had leaked weeks ago. The United States usually headed administration and management but decided to seek a political post this year.

Among other appointments, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Kiyotaka Akasaka of Japan as the U.N. undersecretary-general for communications and public information to succeed Shashi Tharoor of India, a veteran U.N. employee and author. Akasaka has been deputy secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development since mid-2003 and was a former Japanese ambassador to the United Nations for a year in 2000.

A veteran diplomat, Pascoe is regarded as a "straight-talker" with "a little bit of a temper" who will argue passionately for a position he has taken but only after marshaling his facts and thinking it through, according to a State Department diplomat who has known him for years. "He'll twist your arm but not until it breaks . He doesn't break crockery" and is not perceived as operating from political biases, said the diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. Pascoe, in his three decades in the foreign service, has held positions on the Soviet and China desks in the State Department and been posted to Moscow, Hong Kong and Bangkok, as well as to Beijing twice.

Vijay Nambiar, Ban's chief of staff, also told a news conference that Jean-Marie Guehenno would remain head of the large U.N. peacekeeping department. The secretary-general, if the General Assembly approves, wants to split that department in two so that procurement and logistics are handled by another undersecretary-general.

Ban, like his predecessors, is dividing up senior posts among major powers and developing nations. In most cases diplomats said, the country chosen has been allowed to pick the candidate, regardless of qualifications for the job. But Nambiar denied this, saying the secretary-general had had far and wide consultations. China's Sha Zukang, Beijing's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, will head the large department of economic and social affairs.

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