Ban Ki-moon’s no fly-zone
Just over a week ago, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon chartered a U.N. airplane to take him on a high-level diplomatic trip from Madrid to Paris, where French President Nikolas Sarkozy hosted a summit on Libya, a prelude to an allied air attack on forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, U.N. officials told ...
Just over a week ago, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon chartered a U.N. airplane to take him on a high-level diplomatic trip from Madrid to Paris, where French President Nikolas Sarkozy hosted a summit on Libya, a prelude to an allied air attack on forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, U.N. officials told Turtle Bay.
The U.N. plane had a reputation as a warhorse, having flown multiple humanitarian supply runs in Darfur, Sudan, and in other African trouble spots. But the U.N. aircraft was having a bad day.
The landing gear abruptly dropped down shortly after takeoff, forcing the plane to return to the airport in Madrid. The grounding of the U.N. secretary of general posed a political dilemma for the members of the anti-Qaddafi coalition, which had gone to great lengths to highlight the U.N.’s support for the air war. The Spanish government stepped in and loaned one of their planes to the U.N. chief so he could make the meeting on time.
Upon his arrival in Paris, Ban used the occasion to offer his support to the allied effort, urging the assembled leaders, which included U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, "to continue to act with speed and decision" to prevent Qaddafi’s forces from continuing their military advance on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. He also assured them that "the United Nations system will carry out" its own responsibilities in an effort to forge "a common, effective and timely response" to the crisis in Libya.
Apparently, his travel crew didn’t get the message. The following day, a U.N. aircrew flew the same plane, with the landing gear supposedly fixed, back to Paris to fetch Ban and fly him to Cairo. Again, the landing gear dropped after takeoff, forcing Ban and his team to return to Paris. This time, Sarkozy-who had ordered French war-planes to attack Qaddafi’s forces-loaned Ban a French government plane so he could get to Cairo.
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Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch
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