Bland and lacking charisma: Norway’s verdict on UN chief

Author: By Doug Mellgren in Oslo

Aftenposten newspaper yesterday published what it said was correspondence from Mona Juul, based at the UN headquarters in New York, to Norway’s foreign ministry. “At a time when the UN and multi-lateral solutions to global crises are more needed than ever, Ban and the UN are notable by their absence,” the letter read.

Ms Juul, whose husband Terje Roed-Larsen is one of Mr Ban’s special envoys, described the UN leader as “a bland secretary general who is lacking in charisma” and had shown “weak handling” of international challenges.

She said that he was a “passive observer” to Burma’s arrest of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and criticised his slow reaction to the civil war in Sri Lanka. “In other crisis areas, such as Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and not in the least the Congo, the secretary general seems irresolute,” she said.

The letter, written in Norwegian and stamped “highly confidential” by the foreign ministry, was published midway through Mr Ban’s term as secretary general and ahead of an official visit to Norway later this month.

“Ban routinely has angry outbursts that even level-headed and experienced co-workers have trouble dealing with,” Ms Juul added, claiming that the mood among Mr Ban’s staff was “very tense”.

South-Korean Mr Ban became the UN leader in January 2007.

A Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman refused to comment on the authenticity of the letter. She referred reporters to foreign minister Jonas Gahr Stoere’s comment that he had noted the matter, and that he saw Mr Ban as “hard working” and a “good listener”.

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