Counterpoint to Sen. Norm Coleman’s Criticisms of the UN

“A counterpoint to Sen. Norm Coleman’s criticisms of the United Nations’ leader will sound today at Macalester College and the University of Minnesota, where two prominent U.N. supporters will lead town hall meetings on the future of the world body.

Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering said Monday that the Minnesota Republican’s call for Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s resignation is unwarranted. A final report is pending from an investigation into corruption in the U.N.’s oil-for-food program for Iraq, he said, and meanwhile “my strong feeling is that no decision should be made about this particular issue.”

Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. from 1989 to 1992, also said Coleman is wrong to assert that Annan’s position as the U.N.’s effective CEO makes him responsible for any wrongdoing. The oil-for-food program was conceived, Pickering said, under a resolution giving responsibility to a Security Council committee. “Holding the CEO responsible for something the board takes out of his hands is a stretch,” he said in a telephone interview.Coleman disagreed with Pickering’s interpretation, saying through a spokesman that the resolution creating the program “expressly obligates the secretary-general with the oversight and management.” Citing an example of “woefully insufficient and, in some cases, fraudulent” oversight, Coleman said Annan’s handpicked director of the program “was on the take from the [Saddam] Hussein regime.” U.N. auditors have revealed that gross mismanagement was rampant throughout the program, he said.

“As a result, any attempt to shift responsibility for these failures onto the Security Council is badly misplaced,” Coleman said.

Pickering does not plan to rebut Coleman in his opening remarks today, but he expects the audience to raise the subject, and he said he will be “happy to address it.”

The meetings are part of a series of nationwide dialogs sponsored by Americans for Informed Democracy and the Stanley Foundation, organizations which generally support the U.N.’s mission. The meetings were set before a Senate committee scheduled a vote today on the nomination of Undersecretary of State John Bolton as the next ambassador to the U.N.

. . . Appearing with Pickering will be Charles Brown, president of Citizens for Global Solutions, which has aggressively opposed Bolton’s nomination.

While both speakers champion the U.N.’s role in world affairs, they also said it must move swiftly to institute reform. Brown expects to make the point today that Coleman’s call in December for Annan’s resignation did “a profound disservice to the cause of U.N. reform,” because it was timed to overshadow the announcement of a major report on proposed reform.” More