UN tries to halt staff protest against attack
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Kofi Annan's office has barred UN staff from open
opposition to the war in Iraq.
Mr Annan's chief of staff, Syed Iqbal Riza, has written to
the heads of all UN agencies to halt attempts to organise
protests against the attack by publicly expressing support
for the authority of the security council and the
secretary general's efforts to avoid conflict.
"United Nations staff are, of course, entitled to personal
views and political convictions and their desire to be of
assistance to the secretary general is appreciated," he
wrote in the letter, headed "possible initiatives by UN
staff for peacefully resolving the Iraq crisis".
But it goes on to add that "international civil servants
... do not have the freedom of pri vate persons to take
sides or to express their convictions publicly on
controversial matters, either individually or as members
of a group".
A senior UN official said there was considerable
unhappiness within the organisation at criticisms levelled
by George Bush to justify bypassing the security council.
"There is a feeling among many personnel that the US used
the UN until it didn't suit them and then they trash it,"
one senior UN official said.
"We cannot openly campaign against the war but we wanted
to make a public gesture - probably a petition - in
support of Kofi Annan's efforts to ensure the security
council as a whole had the last word. But he does not want
a confrontation with the Americans on this."