b9d5086411868210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q3The quiet diplomat, UN chief shows his teeth to criticsa9d5086411868210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____The quiet diplomat, UN chief shows his teeth to criticsIt has been a long, hot summer for the world's top diplomat, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.<p>It has been a long, hot summer for the world's top diplomat, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. Ever since he reached the halfway point through his first term as head of the world body in July, he has been subject to much painful scrutiny and criticism.
A series of articles in influential publications has assessed whether Mr Ban is the right man for the job. Pundits question whether the South Korean's trademark style of quiet diplomacy is securing gains on important issues of global security.</p>
<p>In one barbed example, The Times ran an editorial column under the headline Whereabouts Unknown that described Mr Ban as "bereft of leadership" and "virtually inaudible" on threats to world peace.
Critics accuse the UN boss of failing to condemn Sri Lanka's government over civilian casualties during the brutal endgame to the civil war. Others say he was too timid against Myanmar's military rulers as they persecuted the popular democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.</p>
<p>This month, the mercury rose further still for a battle-weary Mr Ban, with the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten publishing a leaked internal memo from Oslo's foreign ministry that left the secretary general reeling. The document from Mona Juul, Norway's deputy UN ambassador, delivered a series of scathing blows against Mr Ban, accusing him of being a control freak and disparaging him for counterproductive leadership and a "lack of charisma".</p>
<p>Ms Juul, an experienced and well-connected diplomat who is married to a prominent UN envoy, said Mr Ban carefully guards his public image, likes to strut "in the spotlight" and "regularly throws a fit" that his underlings cannot handle.
The classified document presented a deeply unflattering portrait of an impetuous and isolated secretary general who governs the world body poorly from his lofty heights on the 38th floor.</p>
<p>While Mr Ban has parried critiques from armchair pundits, the poisoned pen of a fellow diplomat has been more difficult to neutralise - particularly one from Norway, a key UN contributor with a reputation for impartiality and fairness.
Ms Juul's comments echoed repeated rumblings against Mr Ban's behaviour which had hitherto never been articulated by a named official. I can testify to the secretary general's impetuous streak having witnessed a top-level tantrum first hand.</p>
<p>During an interview with The National on the sidelines of a Gaza pledge conference held in Egypt in May, I asked Mr Ban whether he felt limited progress during his first five-year term would hinder his chances of securing a second.
Frustrated and tired after days of travelling across Africa and then dealing with the intractable Israel-Palestine issue, the secretary general lost his temper at such a question.</p>
<p>Mr Ban said he would serve a second term if requested, but said he hated such speculation about his leadership. Standing up, visibly angry, he asked: "Why do people talk about these things?"
Some time after the interview finished, Mr Ban approached me and asked whether his two-minute diatribe, duly recorded by Dictaphone, could be struck from the record. (I told him the request was inappropriate).</p>
<p>Many of Mr Ban's predecessors described being UN chief as "the toughest job in the world", and one can only sympathise with an individual who must balance the interests of 192 competing members, including major powers like the United States and China.
But an image is emerging around Mr Ban that raises doubts over whether South Korea's former foreign minister is a suitable skipper for the UN and whether he should step down at the end of 2011.</p>