U.S. Candidate for UN's World Food Program May Get Lame Duck Appointment, Despite Korean Issues

Inner City Press/September 29, 2006
By Matthew Russell

United Nations -- With three months remaining in the term of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a search is on to pick the next executive director of the UN's World Food Program. A memo circulated by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, obtained by Inner City Press, names the U.S. candidate for the position. She is Josette Sheeran (Shiner), with perhaps notable ties to Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church including praise for North Korea.

Tuesday at the UN, before the WFP nomination had become public, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters that Kofi Annan's appointment of new UN officials would only be okay if these officials' contracts ended "soon after January 1."

Friday at the UN, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Bolton if the U.S.'s position is that Josette Sheeran (Shiner) could be given a five-year WFP term even before Kofi Annan leaves the UN in three month. Ambassador Bolton answered that the appointment could be made before January 1, that "the precedents have differed."

Inner City Press: On the secretary-general transition and the World Food Program looking for a new executive director, I've heard that the U.S. put forward Josette Sheeran Shiner. Is it your position that this should not be done until January 1st or that she could be appointed and given a five-year term prior to that?

Ambassador Bolton: She could be appointed prior to January 1 or thereafter. And the precedent has differed from reappointment to reappointment.

While there has reportedly been some dissention within the Bush administration regarding the nomination, open-source research finds that Josette Sheeran (Shiner) was an active member of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church from 1975 through at least 1996. After that date, it is reported that she went "into the world," including into William Bennett's Empower America organization and then the U.S. State Department, in order to spread the Unification Church's message and position. Beyond controversial views on abstinence, mass-marriage and other matters, including the UN, these include business ties with and praise of North Korea.

The internal U.S. State Department memo obtained by Inner City Press states that "For the past several weeks, we have been working with the White House to search for a highly qualified candidate to succeed Jim Morris as Executive Director of the World Food Programme. We now have an excellent candidate in Ambassador Josette Sheeran (Shiner)... Through the course of a distinguished career in government, business and journalism, Ambassador Sheeran has excelled as a diplomat, humanitarian, business leader and development policy leader."

The reference to journalism is to Ms. Sheeran's tenure as managing editor of the Moon-owned Washington Times.

In that capacity, in 1992 Ms. Sheeran went on an 11-day visit to North Korea, leading up a feature article commemorating the 80th birthday of Kim Il-Sung's 80th birthday. "Even if the sky is falling down on us, there will always be a hole for me to rise up through," said Kim -- a sentence Sheeran-Shiner later recollected, as recounted by the American Prospect, as "this wonderful thing which I printed in the paper."

Sheeran-Shiner's interview with Kim Il-Sung painted him as a "self-con?dent, re?ective elder statesman rather than the reclusive, dogmatic dictator he is usually portrayed as in the West."

Now Kim Il-Sung's son is being portrayed by Ms. Sheeran-Shiner's nominator as a threat to international peace and security.

Josette Sheeran's first appearance in the media was in Time magazine of November 10, 1975, in an article entitled "Mad About Moon"

"One typical worried parent is New Jersey's state insurance commissioner James Sheeran, three of whose daughters—Vicki, 25, Jaime, 24, and Josette, 21—are Moon converts. He wants laws to protect people from 'cruel and exotic entrapment of their minds, souls and bodies.' Late one night last August, Sheeran decided to act when Josette, normally compassionate, showed little interest upon learning that her grandmother was in the hospital. He, his wife and a son drove to Moon's school to seek Josette. Fifteen Moon men materialized, a scuffle ensued, and state police arrived amid mutual charges of assault."

Inner City Press' sources say that also in the running to lead WFP are Canada's ambassador to the WFP in Rome, Robert Fowler, as well as senior foreign aid officials from Switzerland and Norway. Given that the latter two countries already have nationals in Under-Secretary General positions, these sources say, the WFP competition for now is between the U.S. and its neighbor to the North. Friday Amb. Bolton expressed his view that the U.S. has the best candidate so "I'm sure we're going to prevail."

But whether either should be considered for a five-year term before the next Secretary-General is in office is an open question. At deadline, a UN official -- who has asked to be identified as such -- indicated that while Mr. Annan may want to make a five-year appointment as a "lame duck," the incoming Secretary-General would also have to assent.

On that, speculation at the UN concerns whether the "discourage" and "no opinion" ballots for yesterday's South Korean front-runner Ban Ki-Moon ("no relation," the UN diplomat joked) involve France and/or the U.K... "Japan is not a fan," the UN diplomat notes. An unrelated update: the U.S. Mission has yet to release to the public and press a copy of the Secretary-General's response about housing subsidies from governments by UN officials. The wait continues. Developing

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