Annan’s Deputy Again Interferes in National Politics

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The New York Sun

UNITED NATIONS — Top U.N. officials yesterday encouraged a revolt in Britain against Prime Minister Blair and called for the separation of Britain’s policy on Lebanon from that of the Bush administration to allow France, along with Egypt and Jordan, a clear leadership role. They also questioned the legitimacy of Israel’s war against Hezbollah as part of the global war on terrorism.

The meddling of the U.N. Secretariat in British internal politics was on full display when the deputy secretary general, Mark Malloch Brown, a Briton, told the British-based Financial Times that the Blair administration should “follow” rather than lead. International policy on Lebanon “cannot be perceived as a U.S.-U.K. deal with Israel,” he said.

Ideas for a two-phase deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon were hashed out over a breakfast meeting between Secretary General Annan and ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council yesterday. But the British press mostly preferred to report on how Mr. Annan had encouraged the former British foreign minister, Jack Straw, to come out publicly against Mr. Blair’s Lebanon policy.

The British U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, said the task of a force that would be deployed in Lebanon as soon as the shooting ceases would be to “give assurances to everybody and especially to deliver humanitarian aid.” Only later, he said, would a “fully deployed” international force be able to secure a “longer-term political agreement.”

Lebanon’s acting foreign minister, Tarek Mitri, said the two-phase deployment was first suggested by Secretary of State Rice on her recent visit to Beirut but that his impression was that “there is more interest now in a one-phase” deployment. At any rate, he told The New York Sun yesterday, “it’s premature” to talk about a deployment of any international force prior to the negotiation of a cease-fire.

Although Israeli commando forces were reported to have conducted an incursion deep into the Lebanese city of Baalbek near the Syrian border, which indicated a deepening of the Israeli military campaign, Ms. Rice told Fox News yesterday that fighting will end “in days, not weeks.”

“It is not helpful to couch this war in the language of international terrorism,” Mr. Malloch Brown said. Although Hezbollah employs “terrorist tactics,” he told an FT correspondent, Mark Turner, “it is an organization, however, whose roots historically are completely separate and different from Al Qaeda,” he said, according to a transcript on the paper’s Web site last night.

“There’s got to be an outreach to Syria and Iran, even if it is not by the U.S,” Mr. Malloch Brown said. Mr. Annan’s aides told the Sun that the secretary-general is himself seeking to be a mediator to Iran and Syria, while the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, called Iran a “stabilizing” force in the region.

Mr. Malloch Brown said America and Britain “now carry with them a particular set of baggage in the Middle East.” Their challenge “is to recognize that ultimately they have to allow others to share the lead in this effort diplomatically.” For Britain, he added, “this is one to follow, to be a very constructive player behind the scenes. We don’t want to fall into this Iraq redux issue.”

“We need Chirac and Bush, or Chirac, Bush, and Mubarak and Abdullah on a podium,” he said, “not President Bush and Mr. Blair.”

Mr. Annan last week conveyed to the former British foreign secretary, Mr. Straw, “his anger at Britain’s refusal to call for an immediate cease-fire,” a report in the Daily Telegraph said. Mr. Straw, who remains in Mr. Blair’s cabinet, went on to criticize Israel, opening the gates for wider criticism of Mr. Blair by Cabinet members.

A U.N. spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, acknowledged that Mr. Annan made a “personal” call to Mr. Straw but “categorically” denied the report. The Telegraph quoted a spokesman for Mr. Straw as saying that Mr. Annan called last Wednesday on his 60th birthday. But according to Wikipedia, John Whitaker Straw was born on August 3, 1946, placing his birthday a full week after Mr. Annan’s call.

Mr. Fawzi yesterday also highlighted dire humanitarian conditions in Lebanon, which he said bolstered Mr. Annan’s case for calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

The New York Sun

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