The Cable

Rumint: Tony Lake to lead UNICEF?

The White House is pushing for Clinton-era National Security Advisor and Obama campaign advisor Tony Lake to be named the next head of UNICEF, a source working closely on U.N. issues tells The Cable.

The potential naming of Lake, the 70-year-old professor and former diplomat, to lead the agency could increase calls by European countries for a change in the custom of having an American at the helm, the source said. Others say that Lake's long experience and well-known reputation would make him a good fit for the job.

Spokesmen for the White House and the U.S. delegation at the U.N. would neither confirm nor deny that they are suggesting Lake for the job.

A UNICEF spokesman would only say, "The selection of a UNICEF executive director is made by the secretary general in consultation with the executive board."

That executive board meets Tuesday in what will be the last series of consultations before the term of current Executive Director Ann Venemen expires in April, so it would be logical that consultations over the next leader of the agency would commence, a U.N. source said.

Venemen, a former U.S. secretary of Agriculture, was appointed head of UNICEF in 2005 but wrote a letter Dec. 23 stating she would not see a second term.

The custom is that the U.S. recommendation for the post would be accepted and the head of UNICEF is traditionally an American. But such customs may be changing since the ascension of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. For example, the U.N. Department of Management is no longer American-led.

"It's not codified anywhere that the U.S. has any special role in running UNICEF, although that's the practice," the U.N. source said.

Lake has a long and storied career in foreign policy and development, dating back to his time as an assistant to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., during the Vietnam War. More recently, he has spent nine years on the board of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and also has worked on children's welfare with the Marshall Legacy Institute, which tries to elevate the condition of children in war torn countries.

He was a senior foreign-policy advisor to the Obama campaign last year but wasn't nominated for any administration position. The Clinton administration withdrew Lake's name for CIA director amid controversy stemming from his failure to divest in energy stocks in 1993 and his failure to inform Congress that President Clinton condoned Iran's arm sales to Bosnia in 1994.

Lake's appointment to lead UNICEF is far from certain. The secretary general could ask the administration for a menu of names or could appoint someone else entirely.

"The secretary general consults widely among member states before reaching a decision of this kind on appointments of this nature," said his spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Lake could not be reached for comment.

AFP/Getty Images

The Cable

CSIS: U.S. should support closer China-Taiwan ties

It's somewhat conventional wisdom in Washington to assume that if Taiwan moves closer to China, that might not be in the interests of the United States. Not so, argues a new report coming out Tuesday from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

What's more, the U.S. should encourage such movement, argues the report, a result of a cross-strait project led by CSIS's Bonnie Glaser that she and others will discuss at an event at the think tank Tuesday. Now is the right time for confidence building measures between China and Taiwan, despite the several internal and international obstacles that remain, the report explains.

"U.S. support for cross-strait military CBMs is consistent with the long-standing U.S. position that differences between the two sides of the strait should be settled peacefully through negotiations," the report states. The authors also talk about the belief in Taiwan "that talks with Beijing on military CBMs cannot begin without visible support from the United States, which many in Taiwan see as necessary to reduce Taiwan's sense of vulnerability and counter the impression domestically that [Taiwanese President] Ma [Ying Jeou] is tilting toward mainland China."

In an interview, Glaser said that privately, the Taiwanese are calling for more public support from the Obama administration across the board, in order strengthen their hand vis-à-vis Beijing. President Ma has made some significant movements toward rapprochement, but now faces pressure to reassert Taiwanese autonomy, according to Glaser.

"Taiwan is saying to the Obama administration, we need more visible signs of support," she said, "Although the U.S.-Taiwan relationship is strong in the military arena, it's not visible."

Similarly, President Obama had focused on the Chinese side of the equation, delaying a pending sales package to Taiwan until after his administration's relationship with Beijing could be set on a secure footing. Now, following his trip there, the White House is expected to go ahead with the sale as well as other actions that are likely to rile the Chinese Communist Party, such as meeting with the Dalai Lama.

"The Obama administration has got the message that Taiwan wants more. The administration's plan is to do more."

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