Embattled UN boss lands in Oslo

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon landed in Norway Sunday night and charmed assembled reporters by speaking Norwegian, but he avoided all questions on the harsh criticism he received recently from one of Norway’s own ambassadors to the UN.

It’s the first time Ban has visited Norway, even though Norway is one of the world’s leading contributors to the United Nations. This visit, announced by Norwegian officials several weeks ago, suddenly came into question after newspaper Aftenposten was leaked a copy of the critical report about Ban’s leadership written by top Norwegian diplomat Mona Juul.

The report criticized Ban for being an ineffective leader prone to temper tantrums who has done little to raise the UN’s profile and make the UN a more powerful force in world affairs. Ban has been the target of criticism from other sources for several months, but none so forceful or identifiable as that from Juul.Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has since expressed regret that the report was leaked but also has said it is a diplomat’s job to report back home on the situation at foreign missions as he or she sees fit.

Ban has said as much as well, finally addressing the critical Norwegian report after several days of silence. “It’s a part of all diplomats’ jobs to report home to their governments,” he told Aftenposten last Thursday. He noted that “when criticism is constructive, it helps” him prepare his work and performance.

He declined, however, to say whether he felt Juul’s criticism was constructive, or justified. Ban also noted that Støre had called him to say he was sorry Juul’s report had been made public.

Ban declined to comment any further upon arrival at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen Sunday night, saying instead that he appreciated the “warm welcome” he received and claiming that he was happy to be in Norway.

Ban, who is traveling with a delegation of around 20 UN officials, is due to spend three days in Norway. He will meet with Støre, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and the president of Norway’s parliament, Thorbjørn Jagland, on Monday. Norway’s government minister in charge of foreign aid and the environment, Erik Solheim, was at the airport to greet Ban and will accompany him on a trip to Svalbard Monday afternoon.

Ban is also expected to visit the grave of one of his predecessors, Trygve Lie of Norway, and was to hold a mid-morning press conference on Monday.