15 OCTOBER 2008


Several leaks have surfaced about outgoing U.N. General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim -- not all complimentary -- now that he has left his rotating office.

An announcement that the Secretary General just appointed him as Special Adviser or Envoy (or whatever) on climate change (or whatever) fueled speculation about the purpose of having a diplomatic status in New York, with its tax deductibles and perks. We'll leave that for a later review of the new "culture" to which we are all earnestly urged to join.

For the moment, we'll just mention the issue of $40,000 double charged by Mr. Kerim who, upon receiving an official note from the U.K. Mission, had to return it.

In brief, based on correspondence in hand, the G.A. President in a letter dated 9 November 2007 to Sir John Sawers, Permanent Representative of U.K. to the U.N., indicated his understanding that a contribution of $40,000 had been offered to cover the period from September 2007 to February 2008 and that a similar amount will be provided to cover the remainder of the session. These funds, according to the letter, "will help pay the cost of employing Robert Pollock, my Special Adviser and Speechwriter." For those unaware of the background, Mr. Pollock is a U.K. citizen.

On 28 November, Sir John responded positively, enclosing cheque number 25180, dated 21 November, in the amount requested.

A week later, however, the well-informed Ambassador had enough time to be informed otherwise. So, on 5 December 2007, he wrote a very polite yet clear letter to Mr. Kerim. "It has been brought to my attention that Robert Pollack is employed and paid as a staff member of the United Nations, rather than on the basis of voluntary contributions. We believe that it would therefore be inappropriate for him to receive remuneration from the U.K. government." Sir John concluded: "In light of the above, you will understand that I must ask you to return the contribution cheque to me as soon as possible."

The following day, 6 December 2007, the cheque was returned.

The devil, as they say, is in the details. One intriguing detail: while Mr. Kerim wrote on the letterhead and emblem of "The President of the General Assembly," he requested the $40,000 to be sent to a Savings Account (number withheld), and the cheque to be made out to his name. (A cautious U.K. treasurer handwrote on the top of the check, after the name "62nd Session of the GA).

Another intriguing detail is that Mr. Kerim sent his receiving address as: Dr. Srgjan Kerim, 160 Central Park South (apartment number withheld), NY 10019. That indicates a more personal angle, particularly when linked with the fact that the address is that of a hotel (and a condominium) where the expenses of the outgoing Assembly President were reportedly covered by a P.R. business enterprise. Questions of conflict of interest had been raised earlier, and may persist with a backdoor appointment by Secretary General Ban. It was also noted that the U.K. Permanent Representative letter requesting the refund was sent to Mr. Kerim's official address as "President of the General Assembly, United Nations, N.Y. 10017."