U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had been invited twice by Chinese President Hu Jintao to be his personal guest on opening night at the 2008 Olympics, has decided to decline the invite.
Why? Back in April, Ban, during a visit to Moscow, told reporters that his "schedule did not permit" a visit to Beijing.
However, rumors recently surfaced that the secretary-general told some luncheon companions last Friday that he would not go to the Olympics because he "would be overshadowed" by other VIPs such as President Bush.
Ban was again approached by the Chinese president when the two attended the recent G-8 Summit in Japan. Again, the U.N.'s press office insisted that "scheduling conflicts" did not permit the secretary-general's attendance.
A recent review of Ban's schedule showed that the U.N. chief spent most of this week in his office in New York with a relatively light schedule.
According to Ban's spokeswoman, Michelle Montas, Ban will go on a brief two-week summer vacation beginning Friday, Aug. 8. So, how does this explain earlier statements by Ban that his schedule "did not permit" a visit to Beijing?
When confronted with this information, Montas told Newsmax that Ban had indeed wished to pay a "state visit" implying a "special status" visit during the Olympics. When the Chinese government refused to grant Ban special status, the U.N. chief opted to go on vacation to "a secret location" in the Western United States.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, was reported to be "none too happy" to have been informed about Ban's decision by reading it first on the news wires.
One veteran ambassador suggested that this was more than a faux paus. "You don't refuse a personal invitation from the president of China," he said.
"Who is Ban to request a state visit? What state does he represent?" asked one surprised veteran U.S. diplomat.
China's U.N. mission had no comment.
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