Refugee chief resigns under pressure
months of criticism, secretary- general Kofi Annan decided
that U.N. refugee chief Ruud Lubbers had to go because
of the growing controversy over allegations that the former
Dutch prime minister had sexually harassed female staffers.
didn't go easily. He resigned but proclaimed his innocence,
saying he felt insulted and accusing Annan of giving in
to ``media pressure.''
a meeting with Annan, U.N. diplomats said the secretary-general
offered the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees two choices
- resign or face suspension and charges of breaking U.N.
first surfaced last year that he had made unwanted sexual
advances toward a female employee, identified in media
reports as an American. But it was only recently the British
newspaper The Independent published the first detailed
description of her allegations and statements from four
other women who didn't file official complaints but claimed
Lubbers sexually harassed them.
the United Nations struggles to improve its image in the
face of scandals over the U.N. oil-for-food program and
sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, diplomats
said Annan decided that Lubbers had become a liability
- but he was also a fighter.
lawyers then started preparing charges against him, U.N.
diplomats said on condition of anonymity. Apparently knowing
what was coming, Lubbers, 65, decided to resign before
UNHCR's chief spokesman, Ron Redmond, told The Associated
Press that Lubbers had ``poured his heart and soul into
this job over the last four years.'' ``He's one of the
hardest-working people I have ever seen, and what a lot
of people don't know is that he has done it all for free.
He has refused to take a salary.''
said Lubbers returned his paycheck to the agency and paid
his own travel and other expenses. ``Each year over the
past four years he has given UNHCR about $300,000,'' Rmdmond
an extremely sad day for the high commissioner and for
UNHCR,'' Redmond said. The turmoil was ``really difficult
for any organization to go through. The high commissioner
realizes that, too.''
The Guardian (London)/ Associated Press