Exclusive: Envoy to FAO fired for 'neglecting U.S. interests'

David Lane speaking at U.S. Independence Day celebrations in Rome

ROME— The U.S. State Department has sacked the American Ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, David Lane, for ‘not upholding American interests’ at the UN agency, diplomatic sources said Wednesday. Mr Lane left his post Aug. 9, about a week after the departure of his especially chosen deputy Nathalie Brown, the sources told the Italian Insider. The current Deputy Chief of Mission), Thomas Duffy, is acting as Chargé d' Affaires in the interim.  

 “Lane, was requested to leave by the State Department for not upholding U.S. interests at FAO, and for apparently toeing the line with the agency,” one well-placed source said.  It is highly unusual for a sitting Ambassador to leave right before Presidential elections, as they usually sit it out until after a new President is elected.

 Despite saying publicly once in an unguarded moment that the FAO ‘is a poster child of UN corruption,’ Mr Lane was thought by the State Department to be using his position to try and replace American Dan Gustafson as Deputy Director General of the FAO to the Director General, José Graziano da Silva, the sources said.  It is common for foreign ambassadors to the FAO to use their posts in Rome to try and get hired as consultants to the UN agency on lucrative salaries, ideally enjoyed together with a pension from their home country.

 The departure of Mr Lane, who also represented the United States to the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), comes amid increasing concern at the State Department over what is seen as blatant discrimination by Brazilian supremo Dr. Graziano against American professional staff at the agency despite the United States being the biggest donor to the FAO.

 American citizens as of June made up less than 99 regular program posts at the Rome-based organisation compared with 146 when Dr. Graziano took officek, FAO sources told the Insider. The State Department evidently held Mr Lane and his staff responsible for failing to prevent that. Mr Lane was appointed in July 2012.

 “Nathalie Brown was the one who was attending all the meetings of the (FAO) Finance Committee, of which the United States is a cardinal member as the Major Donor, and she was letting the Organization get away with murder,” the source added.

  “When Lane first came on board, he had a major disagreement with the long-standing DCM Karen Johnson, got rid of her, and brought in Nathalie.  Ms Johnson was a very strong woman, and Lane did not like that .... he wanted someone more submissive to deal with FAO.”

 Mr Lane is believed to have gone to work for the Annenberg Foundation in Los Angeles -- a super-Republican foundation, set up by the Annebergs, who were part of the Reagan kitchen cabinet.  Ironically, former US Ambassador to FAO Vasquez was heading it once he left FAO (Vasquez was a Bush political appointee Ambassador, so it went with the turf).

 “Apparently Lane had become chummy with Gustafson, who is a Graziano sidekick,” the source said, ”and he was doing everything possible not to make waves at FAO.”

  “The State Department got a wind of it, and asked him to leave.  There was persistent speculation that Lane was possibly aiming to replace Gustafson as DDG (Gustafson has been extended by Graziano for one more year, although he reached Mandatory Age of Retirement this year).”

 State Department sources have indicated that they do not want Lane as Deputy Director General at the FAO, since he would basically be at Graziano's beck and call as the American bat boy, the diplomatic sources told the Insider.


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