Friday, November 19, 2004

UN employees were readying on Friday to make a historic vote of no confidence in scandal-plagued Secretary General Kofi Annan, sources told AFP.

The UN staff union, in what officials said was the first vote of its kind in the more than 50-year history of the United Nations, was set to approve a resolution withdrawing its support for the embattled Annan and UN management.

Annan has been in the line of fire over a high-profile series of scandals including controversy about a UN aid programme that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.

But staffers said the trigger for the no-confidence measure was an announcement this week that Annan had pardoned the UN’s top oversight official, who was facing allegations of favouritism and sexual harassment.

The union had requested a formal probe into the behaviour of the official, Dileep Nair, after employees accused him of harassing members of his staff and violating UN rules on the hiring and promotion of workers.

Top UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced on Tuesday that Nair had been exonerated by Annan “after a thorough review” by the UN’s senior official in charge of management, Catherine Bertini.

Annan underlined that he “had every confidence” in Nair, Eckhard said, but UN employees ridiculed the decision and claimed that investigators had not questioned the staff union, which first raised the complaints in April.

“This was a whitewash, pure and simple,” Guy Candusso, a senior member of the staff union, told AFP.