WORLD / America

Annan rejects US plea that he repudiate his deputy
Updated: 2006-06-08 14:34

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan refused today a US demand that he repudiate his deputy for accusing Washington of relying on the United Nations but failing to defend it against domestic critics.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (L) and his deputy Mark Malloch Brown listen are seen at the United Nations in New York, October 27, 2005. Annan refused on Wednesday a U.S. demand that he repudiate Brown for accusing Washington of relying on the United Nations but failing to defend it against domestic critics. [Reuters]

An outraged US Ambassador John Bolton, while not demanding the resignation of UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, called his remarks "a very very grave mistake."

"Even though the target of the speech was the United States, the victim, I fear, will be the United Nations," Bolton told reporters after speaking with Annan.

Malloch Brown, a Briton named deputy secretary-general in March after serving as Annan's chief of staff and head of the UN Development Programme, delivered on Tuesday what he called a "sincere and constructive critique of US policy towards the UN by a friend and admirer."

"The prevailing practice of seeking to use the UN almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics is simply not sustainable," Malloch Brown told a New York political conference.

"You will lose the UN one way or the other," he said.

Bolton accused Malloch Brown of employing "a condescending, patronising tone about the American people" and said, "My hope is he looks at the potential adverse effects that these intemperate remarks would have on the organisation and repudiate it."

Annan, however, agrees with his deputy's views, UN chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"The secretary-general stands by the statements made by his deputy. So there is no question of any action to be taken against the deputy secretary-general," he said.

The dispute arose as the United Nations neared a June 30 deadline for management reforms eagerly sought by Washington.

Bolton has warned of a possible budget cut-off unless adequate reforms are in place by the end of the month.

Washington pays about a quarter of the UN budget and Bolton has repeatedly criticised poor nations who contribute small amounts for obstructing the will of major dues payers.

By "stealth diplomacy," Malloch Brown said he meant Washington's practice of looking for UN support to deal with global hot spots without letting the US heartland know, while allowing conservative UN-bashers to attack the world body without offering any defense.

"The UN's role is in effect a secret in middle America even as it is highlighted in the Middle East and other parts of the world," he said.

The United States is working through the United Nations in the dispute over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons programme. But memories are still fresh in the world body of how the United States and its allies disregarded the United Nations in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Malloch Brown later said he meant the speech as "pro-US," meant to appeal for "more consistent public leadership at the United Nations." His views were not uncommon in diplomatic circles, he said.

He was driven by the looming crisis over UN reforms, he said, fearing he could later be accused "of not having spoken up and warned people that we face a very difficult moment in this organisation's life."