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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 2nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Strange, Short Tenure of UN’s Verbeke in Lebanon, Reports of Safety Threats.


UNITED NATIONS, August 1 — The UN announced Friday that Johan Verbeke, who only recently was appointed UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, is being given a new assignment, as UN envoy to Abkhazia, Georgia. On July 24, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Michele Montas why Verbeke had not meaningfully deployed to Lebanon. Ms. Montas responded that “I can simply tell you that Mr. Verbeke had to go back home for personal reasons, family reasons, and that’s why he was not in Lebanon.”

    Inner City Press has been told by well-placed Beirut sources that Mr. Verbeke faced threats to his safety, to such an extent that rather than rely on UN Security, he approached the Lebanese government and even the Hariri family. Neither could offer assurances.   He stayed for a time in the Moven Pick hotel, Inner City Press is told and can now report, given his transfer to Georgia. But ultimately he left Lebanon due to lack of security, Inner City Press is told.

  At the August 1 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Montas why Verbeke was leaving, personal or safety?   From the transcript

 Inner City Press: “I didn’t know that there was announcement today of Mr. Verbeke.   Before I had asked, and you had said there was some personal issue.   I don’t want to get into any personal issue, but I do want to ask you, I had heard that there were some security concerns.   I know that you also don’t like to talk about them.   Specific, not to just the mission in general, but to Mr. Verbeke himself.   Either threats or that he’d sought protection from either the Lebanese Government or the Hariris, various things.   Does this transfer, what is, how does it relate to whatever the personal issue was, which I don’t want to know what it was?   But is it because of a personal issue or is because of a safety issue?   What’s the basis of the transfer?”

    Ms. Montas said, “I am not aware of the details.” Video here, from Minute 24:08.


Mr. Verbeke speaks at UN, by image of Mandela next to his Belgian flag.

 

    {He will be replaced by Michael Williams, returning to the UN from a stint with the UK government. Why is it safer in Lebanon for British Williams than Belgian Verbeke? And Verbeke does not go home to his family but to Abhazia.

Various theories have been advanced to Inner City Press, including some connection to an investigation of the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa last decade.

What is concrete is that due to this uncertainty, the UN was un- or under-represented even at the inauguration of Lebanon’s new president.  

Another part-time UN envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, competed with the head of UN Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno to attend – The result was the UN becoming less and less of a player in the conflicts of the Middle East. This is perhaps quite good as it was clearly still unable to do something about the Hariri Family Victimized by the Syrian killings.}

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