Turtle Bay

Dear Turtleleaks, I never said what the secret U.S. cables said I said

On Wednesday, Turtle Bay posted a story, based on a previously unpublished U.S. diplomatic cable obtained through WikiLeaks, claiming that an official from the European Commission, Yves Horent, passed on information suggesting that high level U.N. and EU officials predicted that Pakistan’s foreign minister was destined to become U.N. secretary-general in 2007. According to the ...

On Wednesday, Turtle Bay posted a story, based on a previously unpublished U.S. diplomatic cable obtained through WikiLeaks, claiming that an official from the European Commission, Yves Horent, passed on information suggesting that high level U.N. and EU officials predicted that Pakistan’s foreign minister was destined to become U.N. secretary-general in 2007.

According to the cable, Horent told the Americans that Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and Louis Michel, the former European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, predicted that Kurshid Mehmood Kurasi, was certain to get the job. The prediction turned out, of course, to be flat wrong. The then U.N. South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was already well on his way to firming up support for top U.N. job, and the Pakistani never even emerged as a candidate.

But Horent, who didn’t initially respond to an email request late Tuesday for comment, since sent me an email this morning insisting that the American drafter of the cable is dead wrong, and that he couldn’t even name the former Pakistan diplomat until he received my email and read the story on my blog.

"I am rather surprised by this information that is plainly wrong," said Horent. "Whoever wrote the cable you are referring to was obviously misinformed and /or confused."

"I never gave any briefing to the U.S. Embassy of this kind of political or diplomatic issues," Horent wrote. "My dialogue with the U.S. Embassy in Dar Es Salaam was sporadic and strictly limited to refugee matters in Tanzania, which was then part of my work. I do not recognize the name of the person I am supposed to have communicated with the U.S. Embassy, where my contacts were limited to the refugee coordinator."

Horent said that Guterres and Michel, who did not respond to requests for comment this week, had indeed visited Tanzania at the time, but that their visit "was entirely focused on humanitarian issues. U.N. appointment matters were not discussed. I did not even know who was Mr. Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri until a few minutes ago when I carried out a quick internet search!"

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch.

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

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