U.N. Geneva Staffers Back Annan, New York Counterparts

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Union leaders representing about 4,000 United Nations employees in Geneva on Monday expressed full confidence in U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search), but backed the union's New York branch in strongly criticizing the world body's senior management.

The New York and Geneva unions issued statements following a U.N. investigation that led Annan to clear the U.N.'s top investigator, Dileep Nair, of allegations of wrongdoing.

A resolution adopted Friday in New York by the Staff Union's executive body, the Staff Council, criticized the investigation as "insufficient." After a meeting late Monday, the Executive Bureau of the Staff Coordinating Council in Geneva supported the New York resolution.

An initial draft of the New York resolution raised questions about whether the criticism of senior management included Annan.

Rosemarie Waters (search), president of the New York union, said Friday the resolution that was adopted referred to undersecretaries-general and assistant secretaries-general, and that members still had confidence in Annan.

"We not only have confidence in him, we support him fully," she said. "He is in a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances."

The Executive Bureau of the council in Geneva said it was alarmed at some media's incorrect interpretation of the New York branch's position and expressed "its full confidence in and support of the secretary-general of the United Nations."

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York on Monday, "There was never a question, according to the staff council representatives here, of a no-confidence vote in the secretary-general. I think what you're seeing today in Geneva is their concern that the media reported it initially this way."

The New York branch expressed regret that Annan supported the exoneration of the U.N.'s watchdog of allegations of favoritism and misconduct.

The Staff Council earlier this year called for an independent examination of Nair's recruitment and promotion of staff following anonymous allegations that he was favoring Indian nationals.

Waters said the union only wants Annan's senior management to exhibit the transparency and accountability that the secretary-general had demanded.

The New York council criticized Catherine Bertini, undersecretary-general for management, for failing to interview union leaders who made the allegations against Nair and noted a U.N. staff survey earlier this year that asserted "there is lack of integrity, particularly at the higher level" of the United Nations.

Eckhard said last week that Bertini had found that no staff regulations or rules were violated in the appointment and promotion of staff in Nair's Office of Internal Oversight Services (search), known as OIOS.

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

But in a letter to Waters, 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."

The New York resolution noted "with grave concern the trend of exoneration of senior managers in a series of violations that have serious implications and have further eroded the trust of staff in the senior management system."

While it gave no examples, union officials have criticized Annan's decision to clear U.N. refugee chief Ruud Lubbers (search) of allegations of sexually harassing an American woman in his agency.