- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

NEW YORK — The U.N. staff union met yesterday to discuss a no-confidence measure against senior management of the world body, which has been rocked by a series of scandals involving top officials.

But sources said a planned vote could be put off until next week after U.N. officials asked to meet with union members to quell the uproar over any no-confidence vote in senior management led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

“The idea is to keep dialogue going and see if we can sort out our differences so that it isn’t necessary to adopt [the no-confidence] resolution,” Annan spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

“We’d certainly like them to have more confidence in us, and we hope that we can achieve that through dialogue,” he told reporters.

A draft union resolution obtained by Agence France-Presse on Thursday complained of “a lack of integrity, particularly at the higher levels of the organization,” and asked to “convey this vote of no confidence to the secretary-general.”

The measure cites unnamed senior management, but both sides — faced with heavy press scrutiny after news of the resolution broke — insisted Mr. Annan was not the prime target.

Mr. Eckhard said it was a “misinterpretation” to call the measure a no-confidence vote in Mr. Annan, even though he is the most senior official in the United Nations.

In a press release, the staff union stressed that the draft text had not yet been adopted and said the measure did not “express the desire” for a no-confidence vote against Mr. Annan.

Sources said the immediate anger behind the resolution had been sparked by the announcement Tuesday that Dileep Nair, head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, had been cleared of wrongdoing by Mr. Annan.

Mr. Nair had faced charges of harassment and favoritism but was exonerated after what Mr. Eckhard termed a “thorough review” of the case. Some accusations had been made in an anonymous letter, he said.

The staff crisis comes amid accusations of fraud and corruption in the U.N. program that oversaw oil sales by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Mr. Annan has publicly complained of a “campaign” against the United Nations over the oil-for-food program in operation between December 1996 and November 2003.

But it also follows the exoneration in July of Ruud Lubbers, the top U.N. official for refugees who had been the target of a sexual harassment complaint brought by a female member of his staff.

Mr. Annan cleared Mr. Lubbers of any wrongdoing in that case but reportedly sent him a letter conveying his “concerns” about the official’s behavior.

Mr. Eckhard acknowledged the staff union was “not happy” with this week’s decision on Mr. Nair, whose office functions as the U.N.’s internal watchdog, and said the question would be discussed next week.

“It’s been a bit of an up-and-down relationship” with the union, he said, but added: “We accept them as the legal representatives of the staff.”

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