Annan Promises Change, Seeks End to the Bashing (WASHINGTON POST) By Dafna Linzer 02/04/05 Page A12)
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U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan promised swift action and major
management changes yesterday in the hope of repairing relations with
the United States and boosting morale among his own staff -- both
badly shaken by the United Nations´ protracted role in Iraq.
But in the hours after an independent inquiry suggested that a former
top U.N. official may have profited from his position, Annan´s office
also said it was time to stop bashing the humanitarian organization.
He announced that he will take disciplinary action against Benon
Sevan, who ran the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq, and said
diplomatic immunity will be lifted from any U.N. employee who may
face criminal charges stemming from the ongoing investigation of
allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the program.
The measures were some of the toughest of Annan´s tenure, and aides
and former colleagues said they were intended to assure critics that
he is serious about fixing problems.
"The whole scandal, and then the avalanche of criticism and personal
charges against him, sent him a wakeup call the likes of which he has
never seen," said John Ruggie, a former assistant secretary general
at the United Nations who teaches at the John F. Kennedy School of
Government at Harvard. "In that sense, the scandal may have done
Annan a favor."
It is unclear whether those actions will be enough to quell a torrent
of criticism and calls for Annan´s resignation from some Republican
quarters in Washington.
Rep Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the House International
Relations Committee, said yesterday´s findings by former Federal
Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker paint a "picture of mismanagement,
neglect and political manipulation."
"I am reluctant to conclude that the U.N. is damaged beyond repair,
but these revelations certainly point in this direction," Hyde said.
But Annan´s new chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown, countered during
a news conference that the report also showed that the United Nations
fed millions of Iraqis under the oil-for-food program and reversed a
slide toward a humanitarian disaster in a country under harsh U.N.
He urged countries to halt sharp attacks on the organization and give
Annan´s team a chance to put revisions and management changes in
"Everyone feels the U.N. is finally standing up for itself," said one
senior U.N. official who agreed to speak on the condition of
anonymity after the organization´s staff members were told to refrain
Over the past week, Annan had prepared his organization for difficult
days after the report´s release, but staff members and others said
Malloch Brown´s forceful defense of the United Nations was a welcome
moment for an organization traumatized by Iraq.
When the United States went to war in March 2003 without U.N.
approval, there was concern inside the organization that President
Bush´s warnings that the United Nations was becoming irrelevant were
Many at U.N. headquarters were against the Iraq war from the
beginning and became embittered with the United States, first for
limiting the United Nations´ role in postwar Iraq and then for
complaining about the organization´s unwillingness to take on more
Since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the United Nations has played
various roles in Iraq, first as a humanitarian provider, then as a
weapons inspector -- and ultimately as a target, when the United
Nations´ Baghdad headquarters was blown up by insurgents in August
U.N. staff members, willing to go anywhere in the world for
humanitarian assistance, demanded that Annan pull the organization
out of Iraq, and under intense pressure he ended up firing the U.N.
security chief and demoting another security officer over the attack.
Yesterday, Volcker made clear that his 219-page report "is not the
whole story by a long shot." He is expected to complete another
report by summer, this one dealing with a controversial role played
by Annan´s son, who worked for a company involved in the oil-for-food
program. But it will also focus attention on the role of the Security
Council, including the United States and other members who authorized
or turned a blind eye to allegations of corruptions and mismanagement
during the program´s seven-year history. (© 2005 The Washington Post
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