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It's payback time for Kofi Annan

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It's payback time for Kofi Annan

By Caroline Overington

New York Correspondent

December 4, 2004

 

The UN Secretary-General is feeling the weight of the Bush Administration's anger over his role in the US election.

 

The whisper in Washington is that there were two losers on November 2.

 

The first was John Kerry, who lost the election to President Bush.

 

The second was Kofi Annan. Mr Annan wanted Senator Kerry to win, in part because he loves his job as UN Secretary-General and hoped for an unprecedented third term, something Mr Bush was not likely to back.

 

He did all he could to help Senator Kerry, even telling the BBC in the week before the election that, in his opinion, the war in Iraq was illegal.

 

The comment was designed to hurt Mr Bush, but it failed. Now it's payback time.

 

It is no secret that many in the Bush Administration are trying to blast Mr Annan from office, not only because they think he sided with the Democrats, but because he has refused to send UN staff to Iraq, saying it's still not safe.

 

They have hammered him mercilessly over the oil-for-food program, a scandal that continues to grow.

 

Earlier this week some Republicans called for Mr Annan's resignation. He is unlikely to pay any attention but, on the off-chance that it happens, the US won't be able to take the credit, since Mr Annan is doing a tremendous job of sinking himself.

 

According to investigators, Saddam Hussein ripped $US20 billion ($A26 billion) from the UN's oil-for-food program under Mr Annan's watch and used the money to strengthen his control of Iraq, just as sanctions were supposed to weaken his regime.

 

It is further alleged that some UN staff - including the head of the oil-for-food program - were taking bribes from Saddam.

 

In other matters, it is alleged that a senior UN staffer regularly sexually harasses his staff and that Mr Annan dismissed complaints about it and that UN peacekeepers in the Congo have been demanding bribes in exchange for food, and raping and beating local women (and taking photographs of it).

 

'(He's) open, he listens, he doesn't roll over, and he always tries to do what's right.'

- Colin PowellIf that were not enough, Mr Annan's own son is accused of making money from the oil-for-food program, by taking payments from a Swiss company that had a UN contract.

 

This is hardly the legacy the Secretary-General wanted to leave. But then, history was unlikely to judge him kindly.

 

Mr Annan has worked for the UN for four decades, rising from an entry-level budget officer to Secretary-General, the highest office.

 

Throughout the 1990s he was head of the UN's peacekeeping office. The UN's peacekeeping efforts during that time were disastrous. Its most shocking failures were in Bosnia, where 20,000 men and boys were slaughtered after being abandoned by peacekeepers in so-called UN "safe" areas, and in Rwanda, where more than 800,000 people were hacked to death with no intervention.

 

Mr Annan knew that a massacre in Rwanda was imminent. The head of the UN's peacekeeping mission, Major-General Romeo Dallaire, sent him an urgent memo, practically begging him to intervene before the killings began.

 

Mr Annan does not deny that he should have done something - anything - to try to prevent the killings.

 

"All of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it," he said, in 2001. "On behalf of the United Nations, I acknowledge this failure and express my deep remorse."

 

Given these facts, many were surprised when Mr Annan and the UN received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Then again, it was not for making peace, but for "revitalising" the UN.

 

Mr Annan was, by then, the organisation's seventh secretary-general.

 

The US backed him into the role in 1997, saying he was someone they could work with. He had some early successes: he persuaded the US to pay the $1 billion in dues it had been withholding.

 

Just one year later, however, he made a goose of himself in Iraq. In those days, Saddam was refusing to let weapons inspectors in but Mr Annan believed he could persuade the dictator to do the right thing.

 

He borrowed a private jet from French President Jacques Chirac and flew to Baghdad to negotiate with the tyrant. They smoked cigars together and Mr Annan told Saddam he was a leader of "courage".

 

Saddam told Mr Annan he would let the weapons inspectors return, and Mr Annan was hailed as a hero. He got a state dinner in Paris. Mr Chirac thanked Mr Annan for preventing a third world war.

 

But Mr Annan had been duped. Saddam had no intention of letting weapons inspectors return. Within six months, president Bill Clinton was bombing the country again.

 

Mr Annan's legacy is not entirely negative. In 1990 - before he was Secretary-General - he helped secure the release of 900 Westerners and UN staff being held hostage in Iraq. The peacekeeping effort in East Timor is regarded as a success.

 

He is also very popular in some quarters, which is not a bad thing for a diplomat to be. He is sometimes call the "rock star" diplomat because he hangs out with people like Bono; he eats in New York's best restaurants and lives with his second wife in a mansion formerly owned by the banker, J.P. Morgan's family.

 

He also has powerful friends. Colin Powell once described him as "open, he listens, he doesn't roll over, and he always tries to do what's right". The former US ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, has described him as the "best secretary-general in the history of the UN".

 

Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright says he is "very gentle, somebody who speaks with a very low voice. But he also shows a great deal of determination".

 

But he has enemies, too. On October 31, Mr Annan wrote to the US and Britain, urging them not to launch an assault on insurgents.

 

Iraq's interim Defence Minister, Hazem Sa'alan, scoffed. "Where was Kofi Annan when Saddam was slaughtering the Iraqis like sheep?"

 

"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_www.theage.com.au/news/World/Its-payback-time-for-Kofi-Annan/2004/12/03/1101923333516.html?oneclick=true#"]Source[/url]

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PropellerAds
He did all he could to help Senator Kerry, even telling the BBC in the week before the election that, in his opinion, the war in Iraq was illegal.

 

In otherwords his comments were politically, and not professionally or morally motivated.

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Hi Yank...

 

i will kinda agree with u.

 

his comments were politically & morally motivated, and not professionally.

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