Kofi Annan No Confidence Vote?

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Angered at Secretary-General Kofi Annan's dismissal of allegations against the U.N.'s top investigator, union leaders representating over 5,000 U.N. employees met for a second day on Friday to decide what action to take.

A statement from the United Nations Staff Union said a draft resolution proposed by one group of employees that was discussed Thursday expresses a "lack of confidence" in the U.N.'s senior management.

"The draft resolution has not been adopted by the Staff Council," the union's executive body, the statement said. "And, in any event, it does not express the desire to hold a vote of no confidence against the secretary-general."

Nonetheless, the union was clearly upset at Annan's exoneration of U.N. watchdog Dileep Nair earlier this week. It was the latest dispute between U.N. employees and management following disagreements over the return of U.N. staff to Iraq and the reform of personnel management practices.

The union wrote to Annan in April requesting an independent investigation of personnel practices in the Office of International Oversight Services, known as OIOS, which is headed by Nair.

The Staff Council adopted a resolution calling for an examination of Nair's recruitment and promotion of staff following anonymous allegations that he was favoring Indian nationals as well as alleged corrupt practices in his office and other "misconduct" by Nair himself.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said in a statement Tuesday that Undersecretary-General for Management Catherine Bertini investigated the allegations and found that no staff regulations or rules were violated in the appointment and promotion of staff in OIOS.

The secretary-general accepted the findings and recommendations of Bertini's investigation and told Nair "he had every confidence that the good work of the Office of Internal Oversight Services under his leadership will continue," Eckhard said.

But in a letter to Staff Union President Rosemarie Waters on Tuesday, Annan's chief of staff, Iqbal Riza wrote that Bertini did recommend that Nair "be advised that he should exercise due caution when making personnel-related decisions, so as to minimize the risk of negative perception by staff members in OIOS."

In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Riza wrote that the allegations "required careful review and, inevitably, took some time to complete."

But the Staff Union stressed in Friday's statement that during the six-month U.N. investigation, despite being the complainant, "the Staff Committee was neither informed that an investigation was taking place nor asked to clarify its concerns or provide testimony."

Eckhard said Waters assured U.N. officials on Friday morning that the union was not planning a vote of no confidence in the secretary-general, but was dissatisfied with senior management, particularly over the OIOS matter.

"This morning we invited them to sit down with us next week to go over it," he said. "If they say they were not consulted, I think that's definitely something we'd like to discuss with them next week. That doesn't seem right."

While Eckhard said he expects next week's meeting to focus on OIOS, the draft resolution discussed Thursday raised several other issues.

They include Annan's decision to clear U.N. refugee chief Ruud Lubbers of allegations of sexually harassing an American woman in his agency and his rejection of the resignation of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette over the Aug. 19, 2003 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed 22 people.