Monday, January 03, 2005

The New York Times > International > Secret Meeting, Clear Mission: 'Rescue' U.N.

The New York Times > International > Secret Meeting, Clear Mission: 'Rescue' U.N.Secret Meeting, Clear Mission: 'Rescue' U.N.

Published: January 3, 2005

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Secretary General Kofi Annan during a meeting in his office last week with Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator.

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 2 - The meeting of veteran foreign policy experts in a Manhattan apartment one recent Sunday was held in strict secrecy. The guest of honor arrived without his usual retinue of aides.

The mission, in the words of one participant, was clear: "to save Kofi and rescue the U.N."

At the gathering, Secretary General Kofi Annan listened quietly to three and a half hours of bluntly worded counsel from a group united in its personal regard for him and support for the United Nations. The group's concern was that lapses in his leadership during the past two years had eclipsed the accomplishments of his first four-year term in office and were threatening to undermine the two years remaining in his final term.

They began by arguing that Mr. Annan had to refresh his top management team, and on Monday he will announce that Mark Malloch Brown, 51, the widely respected administrator of the United Nations Development Program, will become Mr. Annan's chief of staff, replacing Iqbal Riza, who announced his retirement on Dec. 22.

Their larger argument, according to participants, addressed two broad needs. First, they said, Mr. Annan had to repair relations with Washington, where the Bush administration and many in Congress thought he and the United Nations had worked against President Bush's re-election. Second, he had to restore his relationship with his own bureaucracy, where many workers said privately that his office protected high-level officials accused of misconduct.

In the week after the session, Mr. Annan sought and obtained a meeting with Condoleezza Rice, the nominee for secretary of state. United Nations officials said afterward that it was an encouraging meeting.

The apartment gathering on Dec. 5 came at the end of a year that Mr. Annan has described as the organization's "annus horribilis." The United Nations faced charges of corruption in the oil-for-food program in Iraq, evidence that blue-helmeted peacekeepers in Congo had run prostitution rings and raped women and teenage girls, and formal motions of no confidence in the organization's senior management from staff unions.

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