Wednesday, May 25, 2011
By Ed Barnes
Published May 24, 2011
A federal judge in New York has issued an order that could lift the U.N.’s long-recognized diplomatic immunity in the United States involving contract disputes, opening the doors for claims of “hundreds of millions of dollars” against the world body, according to lawyers involved in the case.
Following a ruling by Judge P. Kevin Castel, both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times on Wednesday will publish legal notices on behalf of Kahraman Sadikoglu, a Turkish billionaire businessman who is suing the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) for $150 million.
The notices are a legal substitute for the process of officially serving the lawsuit to U.N. officials, who have refused to accept the authority of U.S. courts in this and other legal matters.
Sadikoglu was hired by the UNDP to clear the Iraqi harbor of Um Qasr, Iraq’s largest port in 2003, so that supplies could be delivered to the war-shattered nation. He has fought since that time to be paid for the work, and according to his lawyers is suing now because the U.N. failed to honor the terms of a 2008 agreement that would have settled the matter.
“But when they learned that money would come from their own funds,” according to George G. Irving, Sadikoglu’s attorney at the time, “they just ignored him.” Most of the reconstruction funds had either come from American or Iraqi coffers.
According to Irving, who once worked in the Legal Affairs Office of the U.N. Secretary General, it could open up the floodgates for hundreds of similar lawsuits.
“It is not unusual for the U.N. to play these kinds of games with contractors. They try to frustrate them at every turn so they give up and go away,” he said. But because those contractors would now have access to the courts, the amounts the U.N. could be forced to pay could “amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in claims.”
One officer at an international aid organization said the problem of non-payment is so bad that organizations now mockingly say the UNDP acronym really stands for “U.N. Don’t Pay.”
UNDP has since rebuffed efforts to reach a settlement, rejected the idea of arbitration, and has even refused to accept notice a lawsuit had been filed.
It was that defiance of legal procedure, and the failure of the organization to follow its own procedures, that prompted Castel to allow Sadikoglu’s lawyers to circumvent the normal requirements of serving notice of the suit. If Castel goes on to hear the case, it would set a precedent by erasing the U.N.’s diplomatic immunity, at least on contract disputes.
Asked about the new development, Stanislav Saling, a public affairs officer with the U.N., emailed this response: “We are aware of the case regarding Mr. Sadikoglu and have been in discussions with him for a number of years in an effort to come to some common understanding. However, since this matter is now under consideration in court, I cannot comment further.”
Sadikoglu’s story was one of the rare cases of early reconstruction in Iraq actually working. Originally hired by Saddam Hussein to clear Um Qasr of wreckage from the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, Sadikoglu’s work was suspended because of U.N. sanctions against Saddam and other problems. But he was asked to continue with the project by UNDP after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq forced Saddam from power.
The project was massive. Nineteen sunken ships had to be cleared from the harbor, cut up and sold for salvage. Sadikoglu brought in nine of his own ships to house the recovery crews and perform the work. Despite the chaos and terror of the early years of the invasion, Sadikoglu was able to raise the ships and open the harbor.
Officials from the Coalition Provisional Authority, who had oversight of the port at the time, said Sadikoglu not only completed the work on time, but managed to meet the changing demands of the UNDP as the work progressed. They, too, said they cannot understand why he was never paid.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Published: May 19, 2011
LONDON — On paper Kemal Dervis would seem to be the perfect candidate to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as leader of theInternational Monetary Fund.
Currently a vice president at the Brookings Institution, he was Turkey’s economy minister from 2001 to 2002 and was widely credited with bringing Turkey out of a severe financial crisis by privatizing state assets and slashing budget deficits amid fierce political opposition.
He speaks fluent French, German and English and is a veteran of I.M.F.-style bureaucracies like the World Bank and the United Nations. Earlier this week, London bookmakers were giving Mr. Dervis the second-best chance to get the I.M.F. job after Christine Lagarde, the finance minister of France.
But, Mr. Dervis, it turns out, has a secret that could disqualify him from being considered for the job. Years ago, while a senior executive at the World Bank, he had an affair with a female subordinate who now works at the I.M.F., according to a person with direct knowledge of the affair.
This person’s account was confirmed by Stanislas Balcerac, a former World Bank staff economist who worked on the same floor with Mr. Dervis and the woman.
In a brief interview Thursday, Mr. Dervis declined to discuss the details of his personal life. But after Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s departure over allegations of a sexual assault, questions of past impropriety could be enough to hurt a candidate’s chance.
On Friday, after word of the affair was reported, Mr. Dervis issued a statement through Brookings saying, in part, “I have not been, and will not be, a candidate” for the I.M.F. job.
Mr. Dervis, 62, was not married at the time of the affair, but the woman was, according Mr. Balcerac, who says he bears no ill will toward either person. In fact, he praises Mr. Dervis as one of the brightest, most adept and bureaucracy-beating executives at the World Bank at the time.
“He was not your standard bureaucrat,” he said. He made “decisions quickly and was extremely dynamic.”
Indeed, the professional talents of Mr. Dervis are a reason he has been widely mentioned this week as a possible candidate for the top job at the I.M.F. He would represent a potential bridge between the European establishment from which the I.M.F. chief has traditionally been chosen, and the emerging-economy countries that are now demanding to play a bigger role in global financial institutions. Turkey, with its 9 percent growth rate last year and its ambition to become a major regional actor in the Middle East, would certainly fit that bill.
Most intriguingly, perhaps, Mr. Dervis is a close friend of George Papandreou, the prime minister of Greece, whom he has been informally advising over the last two years.
The two men became acquainted in 2001 when Mr. Dervis was in charge of the Turkish economy and Mr. Papandreou was foreign minister for his government. Since then, Mr. Dervis has provided counsel in a variety of ways.
He has been an active participant in Mr. Papandreou’s annual summer ideas conference held on different Greek islands each year. He has huddled with him at the Brookings Institution in Washington. And he has, insiders say, shared many late-night phone calls with the Greek prime minister.
And Mr. Dervis has many professional admirers.
“He is the man for the job,” said Dani Rodrik, an expert on globalization and development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. “He would be a truly meritocratic appointment.”
But Mr. Dervis said on Thursday that he was in no way prepared for this sudden burst of publicity. “Look, I have not put my name forward, nor has anyone called me about the job,” Mr. Dervis said. “I am flattered, of course, but that is all I can say at the moment.”
In his Friday statement, indicating he would not be a candidate for the I.M.F. post, Mr. Dervis said, “I am fully engaged in, happy with, and focused on my global work at the Brookings Institution and look forward to continuing my research and policy work, including work on Turkey.”
No doubt, the affair in question is very old news. Mr. Balcerac points out that years ago the culture at the World Bank was looser and it was not uncommon for senior executives to have affairs with those working for them.
All of this changed in 2007, when the World Bank had its own, more minor scandal: Its president at the time, Paul D. Wolfowitz, promoted a woman he was involved with.
The I.M.F. has not said publicly who it is considering to succeed Mr. Strauss-Kahn.
John Lipsky, an American, has taken control as acting managing director and while there had been an expectation that Mr. Strauss-Kahn would leave before his term ended in October 2012 to run for the French presidency, it is not clear what type of short list, if any, the fund board has drawn up.
'She was always smiling': Wife of top British diplomat plunges four storeys to her death from luxury New York apartment
- Catherine Hurd is the daughter-in-law of former British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd
- Married to UN Middle East expert Thomas Hurd
- Neighbour heard voices talking in apartment around midnight on Friday
- Said Mrs Hurd was 'always smiling'
- Couple seemed 'perfectly normal and happy'
The wife of a top British diplomat has plunged four storeys to her death from the roof of her New York home.
Mystery surrounds the circumstances of Catherine Hurd’s death, just a week before she and her family were due to return to Britain.
The mother of five was married to diplomat Thomas Hurd, the son of Conservative veteran and former British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, 81, now Lord Hurd of Westwell.
Mrs Hurd was found in the early hours of the Saturday morning near her home close to the United Nations building.
Her husband Thomas is a Middle East expert working with the UN Security Council.
Mrs Hurd, 46, was rushed to hospital by paramedics.
A police spokesman said she was ‘unresponsive with severe trauma’ and was pronounced dead at Cornell Medical Centre.
Police in New York are not treating her death as suspicious but refused to say whether they believe she committed suicide.
They said no note was found.
'There is no suspicion of criminality at this time,' said a spokesman for New York Police.
Mrs Hurd lived in a family home on E84th Street in New York's fashionable Upper East Side. The building is listed as being rented at $15,000 a month.
Her husband Thomas, 45 is a expert on the Middle East and a member of the UK team attached to the United Nations Security team.
A former investment banker, he studied Middle East Affairs at Oxford University and has been in New York for several years where his official position is a political counsellor.
He is thought to have been involved with negotiations over Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Hurd appeared on a list of alleged MI6 agents posted on the internet in 1999, although the authenticity of the list has been questioned.
The Hurds had been in New York for several years and moved to the rented $15,000-a-month townhouse in a quiet, tree-lined street recently.
Mr Hurd’s posting to the UN had come to an end and the family were preparing to return to Britain next week. Neighbours said they were about to move back to Battersea, South-West London.
LEADER WHO SHAPED BRITISH FOREIGN POLICY
They said at least two of their children were already educated in London.
Mr Hurd is a contemporary of British Prime Minister David Cameron having been at Oxford University at the same time.
Hurd was also at Eton where he was two years ahead of Mr Cameron.
Before joining the Foreign Office in 1992 he worked as a investment banker for Credit Suisse First Boston.
A biography on his LinkedIn page reads: 'I have spent almost thirty years covering and living in the Middle East and have particular experience in the political and financial arenas.
'Based now in New York working on the UK UN Security Council team. I am personally keen on studying the interaction between business and geopolitics at present as we witness such major shifts in the way international institutions, both private and public.
The Foreign Office refused to comment on Mrs Hurd’s death. There was also no comment from the family.
On Sunday afternoon an elderly, well-dressed British gentleman who would only say he was a relative answered the door to the four-story town house that Mrs Hurd is said to have fell to her death from. He said he had no comment on what had happened.
Neighbours in the apartment block told the MailOnline Mrs Hurd was a happy mother of five.
One, who did not want to be named, said she had seen Mrs Hurd on the day before she died. 'She seemed perfectly normal and happy when I saw her last,' the woman said.
'The week before she had brought over some boxes of children's books that she was donating for my street fair. She didn't want to carry them back to London.
'We knew she was going back next week. Then on Friday I met her on the street as she was coming home and I was leaving and she told me she would bring me over some more books before she left.
'Next thing I heard a detective called at my door at 7am on Saturday morning and told me what happened. I couldn't have been more shocked or surprised. He wanted to know if I heard anything but I slept right through it.
'She was a lovely woman, very pleasant, always smiling friendly and polite. She always said hello when I saw her in the street.
'Her husband seemed to be very busy when he came and went so I didn't know him much. But they couldn't have been better neighbours.
'They've lived here about six months. I think they had dinner parties occasionally for UN people. They just seemed like a perfectly normal and happy couple.
'She did not seem maladjusted or unhappy but was always smiling. It's terrible what happened. I can't believe it.
''I came back from the theatre on Friday night and heard voices around midnight. Not an argument but people talking, a conversation. So I don't think she was home alone but I can't be sure. It's just terrible.'
Another neighbour told the MailOnline: ''They were just a typical family. Seemed like a very normal couple. Perfectly happy.
'I would see her coming and going with her kids. She would look stressed some times but no more than any other parent with their children. They kept to themselves but were always polite.'
A police spokesman said Mrs Hurd was found at 4.27am on Saturday.
'Police responded to a call and found a 46-year-old woman outside 445 East 84th St unresponsive and with severe trauma,' said a spokesman.
'She was taken to Cornell Medical Centre where she was pronounced dead on arrival.
'There is no criminality suspected at this time.'
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: 'We cannot comment on the personal circumstances of any of our staff.'
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Another member of Socialist International (Kemal Dervis) could be heading International Monetary Fund
Monday, May 16, 2011
But Clinton added that if such an agency were ever created, it would have to be "totally transparent" about where its funding came from and would have to be independent.
"Let's just say the U.S. did it. It would have to be an independent federal agency that no president could countermand or anything else because people wouldn't think you were just censoring the and giving a different falsehood out," he said.
"That is, it would be like, I don't know, National Public Radio or BBC or something like that, except it would have to be really independent and they would not express opinions, and their mandate would be narrowly confined to identifying relevant factual errors," he said.
Clinton said the agency would have to have citations so it could be checked in case it made a mistake.
"Somebody needs to be doing it, and maybe it's a worthy expenditure of taxpayer money," he said. "But if it's a government agency in a traditional sense, it would have no credibility whatever, particularly with a lot of the people who are most active on the Internet."
NEW YORK | Sat May 14, 2011 5:55pm EDT
(Reuters) - North Korea and Iran appear to have been regularly exchanging ballistic missile technology in violation of U.N. sanctions, according to a confidential U.N. report obtained by Reuters on Saturday.
The report said the illicit technology transfers had "trans-shipment through a neighboring third country." That country was China, several diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The report was submitted to the Security Council by a U.N. Panel of Experts, a group that monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after it conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
The U.N. sanctions included a ban on trade in nuclear and missile technology with North Korea, as well as an arms embargo. They also banned trade with a number of North Korean firms and called for asset freezes and travel bans on some North Korean individuals.
"Prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Islamic Republic of Iran on regular scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air," the report said.
"For the shipment of cargo, like arms and related materiel, whose illicit nature would become apparent on any cursory physical inspection, (North) Korea seems to prefer chartered cargo flights," it said.
It added that the aircraft tended to fly "from or to air cargo hubs which lack the kind of monitoring and security to which passenger terminals and flights are now subject."
Several Security Council diplomats said China was unhappy about the report and might not agree to release it to the public. At the moment, only the 15 council members have official access to the document.
One of the independent experts on the panel is from China and diplomats said he never endorsed the report.
Beijing has prevented the publication of expert panel reports on North Korea and Sudan in the past. Earlier this week, Russia took similar steps to suppress an equally damning U.N. expert panel report on Iran.
The spokesman for China's U.N. mission was not available for comment.
Further evidence of Iran's cooperation with North Korea on missile technology came during a military parade in October 2010, the report said, when North Korea displayed a new warhead for its Nodong missile.
The warhead had "a strong design similarity with the Iranian Shahab-3 triconic warhead."
The expert panel said there appeared to be no compelling evidence that Myanmar had been developing a secret nuclear program with the help of North Korea, an allegation that had been raised previously by the group.
But it did not dismiss the allegations and suggested "extreme caution" might be needed to prevent North Korean-Myanmar cooperation from becoming proliferation.
The allegations are due partly to attempts by the former Burma to acquire items that can be used in a nuclear program.
"While acknowledging the possibility that Myanmar was the end user of this dual-use equipment, several experts also raised the possibility that it was serving as a trans-shipment point for delivery to (North Korea)," the report said.
The report said the possibility of exports of weapons-grade nuclear material from North Korea or nuclear technology to other countries remained a concern and presented "new challenges to international non-proliferation efforts."
U.S., Israeli and European governments have said that North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor that Israel destroyed in 2007. Damascus denies the charge, which is being investigated by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
In its report, the panel said North Korea's uranium enrichment problem, which Pyongyang says is for civilian purposes, was "primarily for military purposes."
It added that North Korea "should be compelled to abandon its uranium enrichment program and that all aspects of the program should be placed under international monitoring."
The report also said there were concerns about safety at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex. It said "safety issues should be discussed an integral part of the denuclearization of (North Korea)."
It added that "reckless decommissioning or dismantlement at Yongbyon could cause an environmental disaster."
Deena Shehata, 28, claims she was “manhandled” and forced from her home by her husband Paul Ross, but police were unable to do anything because of her husband’s job status.
The couple married in July 2007 and moved to Pakistan a year later when Mr Ross, 51, from Wembley, was appointed the IMF’s Resident Representative in Pakistan, in charge of an $11 billion (£7.5 billion) economic stabilisation programme.
Holders of such posts usually carry a United Nations diplomatic passport.
The couple’s marriage allegedly broke down and Miss Shehata said she returned to their home — a smart two-storey villa, protected by guards and barbed wire, in an area of the city popular with wealthy expats — on Friday to collect some of her belongings. She alleges that her husband grew impatient before forcing her out of the house.
“I was humiliated as my husband asked our guards to remove me from my own home,” she wrote in a statement for police.
A doctor’s report detailed bruises, cuts and grazes and concluded she was “mentally depressed over [the] trauma, she is feeling helplessness and is scared.”
Miss Shehata, a British-born academic, said she was desperate to leave Pakistan as soon as possible.
She said she was disappointed at the way police handled the case, and that appeals for help to the IMF had not helped her find justice.
“The best solution they have is to get me out of here quickly and safely,” she said, adding that the system seemed to want her removed from the scene like a “broken toy” rather than questioning her husband.
Sub Inspector Abbas, the police officer dealing with the case said that as soon as they found out that Mr Ross had diplomatic status they abandoned the case. He said they took a statement from Miss Shehata and did not investigate any further.
Miss Shehata’s supporters said yesterday that they would take the case to Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs.
Asma Jahangir, a human rights lawyer, said: “This is an issue where there must not and should not be immunity for diplomats or any man.”
Paul Ross said: "I am saddened by the allegations made by my wife, which are untrue, and I look forward to an independent investigation that will establish the true facts."
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) has today published a work plan outlining its intended programme of activity for the next three years.
ICAI Chief Commissioner Graham Ward CBE unveiled the plan at an event in Parliament with the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell and the Chair of the International Development Select Committee, Malcolm Bruce. The event also marks the official launch of the Commission.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:
“The Independent Commission for Aid Impact will be a watchdog with real teeth. They will highlight where aid works and where we need to improve. Their work plan strikes me as a strategic and balanced review of our aid programme.
“The UK Government is dispensing with the power to sweep things under the carpet. The ICAI Commissioners are an energetic, dedicated group, backed by a strong team who will hold our aid spending to account. Their findings will help us shape the future of aid.
"We have a duty to squeeze 100 pence of value from every pound, for the taxpayer and the world’s poor. This new Commission will do just that - ensure we get best value for money."
The ICAI work plan covers core development areas such as health, education and Africa. It also addresses a wide range of topical issues including Afghanistan, corruption and climate change, as well as other important areas which are key elements of the fight against poverty.