New York, July 2: Salman Haidar, India’s former foreign secretary, is to be the UN secretary-general’s envoy to Iraq in the wake of America’s decision to restore Iraq’s sovereignty.
UN sources said Kofi Annan had shortlisted two candidates. The other was Surin Pitsuwan, a former foreign minister of Thailand. Pitsuwan is also a Muslim, but may have lost out because Thailand has troops in Iraq.
Once Haidar gets the job, one of the most sensitive diplomatic posts in the world today, he will have the challenge of taking the UN back to Iraq after the terrorist bombing of its headquarters in Baghdad last August. The world body pulled out of Iraq shortly thereafter. Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Brazilian diplomat whose place Haidar will take, was killed in that bombing.
The sources said Haidar met Annan in Doha at the beginning of the week and then travelled to the UN headquarters here for consultations with senior officials. A formal announcement may be made later today or when Annan returns from his Sudan visit.
Haidar has little experience of UN work, but two considerations appear to have favoured him in the choice for the Iraq job.
First, he is a Muslim from a non-Muslim country without the baggage of intra-Arab politics. Second, India is not part of the “coalition of the willing” which invaded Iraq and is, therefore, not a target for the insurgents.