Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Just days after the United Nations Security Council passed a tough resolution on Iraq, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was honored in Washington as a "visionary." About 400 members of the political and diplomatic communities gathered at the National Building Museum on Tuesday night for the previously planned tribute dinner, sponsored by the United Nations Association of the United States, a nonprofit group that supports the U.N. through grass-roots programs.
"Friday was a special day for the United Nations," Annan told the audience. "It showed what a central role the United Nations can and must play. . . . Iraq now has a new and final opportunity to comply with all of the Security Council resolutions."
Among the guests were U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte, Ugandan Ambassador Edith Ssempala, billion-dollar U.N. donor and media mogul Ted Turner, Rep. Henry Hyde, Mayor Anthony Williams and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Nodding across the table to his "great colleague" Annan, Powell told a reporter: "He and I are pleased with the outcome of the Security Council vote. The real test is ahead. Will Iraq obey the commands of the international community?"
Turner had nothing but hyperbolic praise for Annan. "He has the toughest job in the world and everybody loves him," he told the crowd. "He doesn't make anybody mad at him, not even Saddam Hussein."
Annan declined to take questions, but in his remarks gave the audience a sobering reminder of the roots of world unrest: "Just as terrorism must never be excused, so must genuine grievances never be ignored."
Association President William Luers cited among Annan's accomplishments his efforts "to reduce the cost of the United Nations," his appointment of "high-quality people" to its leadership and his call for independent investigations of U.N. actions and failure to act in Rwanda and in Srebrenica, Bosnia. "He said we have to find out what went wrong, who made a mistake, even if it was me. And you don't find that very much," Luers said.
Annan, who has been in office since 1997, is the first secretary general to come from the ranks of the United Nations. A Ghanaian educated in the United States and Europe, Annan served as undersecretary general and represented the U.N. in the former Yugoslavia. He won the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
As secretary general, Annan "has moral authority and very little more," Luers said. "The United Nations has a whole range of peaceful, nonviolent efforts," and the secretary general's role in the case of a conflict with Iraq would be "principally to manage the aftermath of the war."
Perhaps the subdued atmosphere of the dinner was due to the speakers' frequent reminders of what the world faces, beyond the possibility of war with Iraq.
"Nowhere has Kofi's leadership and foresight been more important than in marshaling the international community against the biggest problem we have on the face of the Earth today, and that's the HIV/AIDS pandemic," said Powell to a standing ovation.
Ssempala called Annan "one of the most outstanding Africans." She said she'd like to see the U.N. take a more active role in resolving conflicts. "The priority for Uganda is really for the world to work together. . . . We really hope that we are not going to war," she said.
House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) said peace should be the U.N.'s highest priority. "Whatever can be done in terms of security, peace and maintaining it -- nothing is more important than that," he told a reporter.
But Hyde didn't let the weighty issues distract him from the elegant surroundings. He gazed toward the Building Museum's massive four-story columns. "It looks like the Temple of Karnak in Egypt," he said. "It is a spectacular room to see. On A&E last night I saw Cleopatra and that focused me on it. . . . Being here keeps the mood alive."
Guests dined on roast lamb with Tuscan white beans, steamed asparagus and grilled polenta.
The evening's emcee was Andrea Mitchell, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, who seemed to have left her objectivity at the door. "No one could have engineered what happened in the Security Council, a unanimous vote, as adeptly as the secretary [of state] and his team," she oohed.
AOL Time Warner Vice Chairman Turner also praised the Bush team. "One thing the administration has done is really doing a good job supporting the United Nations," the liberal said. "The U.S. has paid its dues to the U.N. and that was one of our top priorities."
Turner had announced at a previous association event his plan to donate $1 billion over 10 years to the United Nations, a pledge he is fulfilling through his United Nations Foundation.
No Armani for this billionaire rancher. He flipped over his brightly colored tie with the flags of many nations to show it was made by Save the Children. "It represents international friendship," Turner said.