- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

From combined dispatches

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday chose the head of a high-profile U.N. agency as his new chief of staff to help institute reforms and combat accusations of scandals.

Mark Malloch Brown, 51, a Briton, is the administrator of the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the largest U.N. agency, with programs in 166 countries. He now ranks as the third highest official in the world body, after Mr. Annan and his deputy, Louise Frechette.

“This is a first in a series of changes, or a shuffle, that may happen,” Mr. Annan said at a press conference, without elaborating.

He noted that Mr. Malloch Brown, a former Economist magazine journalist and spokesman for the World Bank, was “experienced in policy as well as communications.”

Mr. Malloch Brown will remain head of UNDP as well as chief of staff while the tsunami emergency is raging and until a replacement is found. He will travel to Jakarta, Indonesia, with Mr. Annan for a Thursday meeting with Asian leaders.

Mr. Malloch Brown replaces Iqbal Riza, Mr. Annan’s longtime right-hand man whose retirement was quietly announced in December just before the Christmas holiday.

Mr. Riza, 70, was Mr. Annan’s deputy in 1994, when Mr. Annan was head of the U.N. peacekeeping operation that did not prevent the genocide in Rwanda that left about 800,000 dead.

Mr. Annan refused to confirm a New York Times report that his top political officer, Kieran Prendergast, also could be on the way out to take over as senior envoy for the Middle East peace process.

“I must admit that I do intend to make further changes, changes that would affect senior people already in the building,” he said.

He also played down a query about bringing in more U.S. staff sympathetic to the Republican administration of President Bush, which has sparred with Mr. Annan over the Iraqi oil-for-food program and the Iraq war that Mr. Annan called illegal.

The openings give Mr. Annan an opportunity to put in place reforms that he has advocated and tackle the damage caused to the world body by corruption in the oil-for-food program.

In addition, the staff union has complained that senior officials were not held accountable for their actions, noting the retention of Dutchman Ruud Lubbers, the Geneva-based U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, after he was accused of sexual harassment.

“It has been a subject of wide commentary that staff morale is not at its highest at this time, and we face also, in the weeks ahead, recommendations that may come from Mr. Volcker,” Mr. Malloch Brown said, referring to a preliminary report expected this month from Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, who is heading an independent probe of corruption in the oil-for-food program.

Mr. Malloch Brown also made it clear that he would be available for media comments, which is unusual in his new post.

“I think that a modern, global public organization of this kind has to understand that there are many news cycles a day, that to get your message out requires a vigorous, rapid response,” he said.

He said he would be “someone pushing for a quick response to issues, a response of a substantive and open and forthcoming kind” and would have a “much more prominent role” as a spokesman for Mr. Annan and the United Nations.

A group of friends outside of the United Nations talked with Mr. Annan on Dec. 5 at the apartment of former U.N. Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke about ways of rescuing the world body and Mr. Annan’s reputation, the New York Times reported yesterday.

They urged Mr. Annan to repair relations with Washington, where some think that he and the United Nations worked against Mr. Bush’s re-election, the newspaper said. Some members of Congress have called for Mr. Annan’s resignation.

Asked about the meeting, which did not include Republicans, Mr. Annan said, “I have spoken to people of both parties, and I do not think one should worry about whom I talk to. At the end of the day, it is the decision that I take which should be of concern.”

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