Iraq's Odious Debts

UN staff cast doubt on Annan support

Agence France-Presse
Khaleej Times Online
December 3, 2004

Secretary General Kofi Annan was facing new questions on Friday about support from his own employees after UN staff cast doubt on a show of confidence in his leadership.

In a vote late Thursday, the UN staff union adopted a resolution critical of an email letter signed by thousands of United Nations workers backing Annan in the face of what UN officials say is a media-driven campaign against him.

The issue began on Wednesday when UN staff worldwide received an email urging them to add their names to the letter, which denounces the “poisoned atmosphere” created by allegations of UN corruption and wrongdoing.

“It is imperative that UN staff members stand together and not play into the hands of critics who would like to destabilise the organisation from within,” the letter said – and more than 3,000 staff reportedly signed up.

But the union, in the resolution obtained by AFP, rebelled against the “vagueness” of the letter, which it said could be used to “publicly admonish” employees who did not sign on for the public show of support in Annan.

It asked UN management to give a full accounting of who was behind the letter and how they had been permitted to use the UN’s internal communications system to send a note across the globe asking to support the UN chief.

Union members indicated concern that the phrase mentioning the destabilisation of the United Nations “from within” was a way of quashing internal dissent.

They said the email had been manufactured by high-level UN officials trying to force a demonstration of solidarity from lower-level staff.

An official from the office of Annan’s spokesman told AFP that a ”critical mass” of 70 people was all that was needed to circulate an internal petition on the UN Internet system.

“The supporters came up with enough signatures to meet the threshold,” the official said.

Privately, officials close to Annan and other UN employees have disparaged the union, saying it does not fairly represent the sentiment of staff who hold Annan in high regard.

But top UN spokesman Fred Eckhard, in the wake of another union resolution last month criticising the world body’s senior management, said Annan accepts the union as the legal representative of UN employees around the globe.

Annan has faced calls to resign from what Eckhard calls “certain segments” of the US media over allegations of corruption in the UN programme that oversaw Iraqi oil sales when dictator Saddam Hussein was in power.

Annan is also under heavy criticism over pardons he granted to senior UN officials accused of sexual harassment and other wrongdoing.

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