Has former President Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail again?
That's the word according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist who reports a "major international move" is afoot to help install the ex-CEO of the most powerful nation as the CEO of the most powerful world body – the United Nations.
Sunday's "Dateline D.C." column, which the paper says is written by a Washington-based British journalist and political observer, named no names but cited reports that Clinton had already lined up support for his candidacy for the secretary-general position from Germany, France, England, Ireland, New Zealand, a handful of African states, Morocco and Egypt. The Tribune-Review also reports Russia has made it known it would not object and added that China is also a big fan of the former president.
According to the Tribune-Review columnist, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is "under pressure to resign before the end of his second term in 2006." Should he do so, the General Assembly would select his replacement, on the recommendation of the U.N. Security Council. This may come as early as this Fall.
"This is the first I've heard about it and it's certainly not true," Annan's deputy spokesperson Hua Jiang told WorldNetDaily. "As far as we know, he has the full trust of all the members."
Jiang said Annan, who took over as U.N. chief in 1997, intends to fill out his entire term through 2006.
A PBS documentary, which aired earlier this month, offered highlights of Annan's U.N. career. A low point came in 1994 with the genocide in Rwanda. Annan calls it "the greatest catastrophe the U.N. ever faced." High points include the independence of East Timor and accepting Norway's Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.
Odds favor an American secretary general next time around because there has never been one from North America.
Clinton's fund-raising prowess, according to the Tribune-Review, is also viewed as just what the doctor ordered for the 50-year-old U.N. headquarters building on 42nd Street in New York, that is in need of a serious overhaul.
A rested and refreshed Clinton recently appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" program, a customary pit stop for modern-day political campaigns. He made repeated references to the U.N. throughout the interview.
Responding to King's query about Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation on Iraq to the Security Council, Clinton sounded more like a U.N. diplomat than a former U.S. president.
"The most important thing [Powell] said from the point of view from the United Nations is that we had intelligence and photographs which seemed to prove that Iraq was almost taking these chemical stocks, at least, out of the backdoor while the inspectors were going through the front door, that they were moving things. And if that's true, it means Mr. Blix and his inspectors might never get to do the job that they were appointed to do. So I think that we need to listen to Blix, listen to Secretary Powell and I still hope the United Nations can act together on this and I think there's still a chance we can," he said.
"And, you know, there's still a chance that Saddam Hussein will come to his senses and disarm," he added.
Clinton stressed the need for abiding by international law and making sure action taken against Saddam Hussein is coordinated through the global body.
"We're trying to get rid of the chemical and biological storehouse in the hands of a tyrant ... The second thing we're trying to do is to build a global alliance for peace and freedom and security. So if we can do it with broad support within the U.N., it would be much better," Clinton said. "If we can get, based on this evidence, and letting the inspectors do a little more work if we can get an agreement with the French and the Germans and the others who are skeptical and who think that we've been too eager to do this all along, that would be better and it might give us a chance to resolve this peacefully. I think the greatest victory of all would be if Saddam Hussein saw the whole world arrayed against him and thought, you know, the jig was up."
Throughout the duration of the interview, the 42nd American president took credit for keeping a lid on the nuclear showdown with North Korea, now threatening to bubble over and for giving the approval for the first Israeli astronaut to go into space aboard the space shuttle Columbia.
"On the day that he went up, former Prime Minister Barak called and thanked me and reminded me that he and I had done this deal to allow this remarkable human being to go into space," Clinton recalled.
In addition to increasing his visibility in the media, Clinton is taking a cue from his Democratic predecessor former President Jimmy Carter and conducting international diplomacy. He is slated to participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos next week. The forum is part of the U.N.'s effort to mediate a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.
He also has been promoting his William J. Clinton Foundation, which has collaborated with the Harvard AIDS Institute, Columbia University Medical School and other organizations, to help countries battling AIDS develop better systems to deliver care. Clinton also co-chairs the International AIDS Trust with Nelson Mandela.
A call and e-mail seeking comment from Clinton's press office in New York have not been returned. A spokesperson told WorldNetDaily that the staff needs two weeks' notice to respond to press inquiries.