State Department spokesman James Rubin impugned the integrity and professionalism of a dedicated civil servant when he charged that Hans von Sponeck, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, exceeded his authority by criticizing the Security Council's sanctions policy and by investigating civilian casualties from U.S.-British bombing raids in Iraq's "no-fly" zones [news story, Nov. 3].

During my career in the U.S. Foreign Service, I served with Count von Sponeck. He was U.N. Development Program resident representative to Pakistan during the administrations of two corrupt prime ministers, and he regularly challenged both about their failure to deliver basic resources to social development. This is not common practice for the senior U.N. diplomat in a major capital. Count von Sponeck also has been blunt and critical with his counterparts in the Iraqi government, including the highest levels of the Iraqi leadership.

When Mr. Rubin says, "Mr. von Sponeck has undermined the role of the humanitarian coordinator in Iraq," he means that the count has not been an advocate for Pentagon policies. When Mr. Rubin says, "We do not have confidence in his leadership of this effort," he means that Count von Sponeck is not an advocate of allied air-war efforts in Iraq.

At a time when much of the world worries that Western policies toward Iraq punish the poor and the defenseless for the horrors of their leaders, we should be pleased to have such a capable and effective advocate for the disenfranchised.



The writer is an adviser to Egypt's Ministry of Justice.