washingtonpost.com  > World
Page 2 of 3  < Back     Next >

U.N. Chief's Record Comes Under Fire

In 2001, Gunnar Berge, chairman of the Nobel Committee, declared, "No one has done more than Kofi Annan to revitalize the U.N."

But given the United Nations' current crises -- not only the widening oil-for-food scandal, which last week prompted Annan's envoy to North Korea to step aside while investigators examine his ties to a South Korean lobbyist, but also reports of rampant sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers and of favoritism at the U.N. elections division -- Malloch Brown conceded that Annan's "reforms didn't go far enough," leaving him open to attack.


U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is resisting calls for his resignation. (Spencer Platt -- Getty Images)

Annan's opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 angered conservative Republicans -- and his efforts to accommodate the United States after the war alienated many U.N. staff members.

When he sent his top political troubleshooter, Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, to Iraq to support the U.S.-backed political transition, many U.N. staffers felt that Annan allowed the United Nations to legitimize the U.S. occupation.

Then came the Aug. 19, 2003, attack on the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters, which killed Vieira de Mello and 21 others.

Closest Advisers Kept Jobs

Annan sacked his top security adviser and disciplined several other U.N. officials -- but many mid-level officers felt that he bore primary responsibility for sending U.N. staff into harm's way, and noted that he spared some of his closest advisers, including his chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, and his deputy, Louise Frechette.

Annan, meanwhile, struggled to mend the United Nations' political divisions, announcing plans to set up a panel to produce changes that would balance Washington's demand for a United Nations more capable of enforcing its resolutions against other members' desire for clearer rules on the use of force.

Some observers say Annan set himself up by placing himself in the middle of a bitter political struggle. He "put a big sign on his forehead that said 'I'm vulnerable,' " said Edward Luck, a Columbia University professor who studies the United Nations.

All the while, allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food program were circulating. And after the United States began to occupy Iraq, evidence surfaced that put the focus on U.N. officials.

The program was established in December 1996 to allow Iraq to sell its oil to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods. It ended after the U.S. invasion in March 2003. It eased the civilian suffering attributable to economic sanctions imposed on Baghdad -- and allowed Saddam Hussein's government to collect $2 billion in kickbacks from companies doing business with Iraq.

The U.N. investigation, headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, has established that Sevan, the administrator Annan handpicked for the program, steered millions of dollars in lucrative oil business to an Egyptian business associate. It has faulted Riza, Annan's former chief of staff, for shredding three years' worth of backup documents. And while it found insufficient evidence that Annan directed business to his son's employer, it also said that his son, Kojo Annan, 31, may have earned as much as $485,000 in consulting fees from the company while it did millions in business in Iraq for the United Nations -- and it portrayed the secretary general as an excessively permissive father who failed to adequately probe allegations that his son's dealings posed a conflict of interest.

Annan last fall delivered a wrenching public denouncement of his son for lying to him about his relationship with his employer. He also said he felt that Volcker's report had delivered an "exoneration" of him.

"We did not exonerate Kofi Annan," Mark Pieth, a senior member of Volcker's team, told reporters. "We should not brush this off. A certain mea culpa would have been appropriate." On Thursday, a State Department official also disputed Annan's use of the word "exoneration," marking the first time the U.S. government has done so.

It was also last fall that Coleman, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations, called for Annan's resignation. As other congressional Republicans joined him, the Bush administration kept silent for several days before joining the other U.N. members in saying he should not leave.


< Back  1 2 3    Next >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company