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Probe Reveals UN Security Failures In Iraq

Annan Takes Strong Disciplinary Measures After Probe Reveals Security Failures In Iraq

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today announced a series of disciplinary measures, including calls for the resignation of senior UN officials, following the release of a critical report by a panel that identified institutional and individual failures in assessing the security situation in Baghdad prior to the terrorist attack last August that killed 22 people, including the UN's top envoy in Iraq.

The official in charge of overall staff security, Security Coordinator Tun Myat, was asked to resign from the United Nations, while Ramiro Lopes da Silva, his proxy on the ground in Iraq, known as the Designated Official, was asked to immediately step down from his current post as an Assistant Secretary-General in the United Nations and return to his senior post in the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

Future assignments for Mr. Lopes da Silva, who also served as the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, will no longer include any responsibilities for security matters, a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in making the announcements on the disciplinary measures.

The Secretary-General established the Security in Iraq Accountability Panel late last year to carry out an independent probe into the responsibilities of all individuals and UN entities involved in the security of the UN operation in Iraq, which might have prevented or mitigated the effect of the 19 August attack, or diminished the loss of life and injury to UN personnel. The panel focused in particular on the actions or omissions of the UN headquarters in Baghdad and its staff.

The blast destroyed the UN offices at the Canal Hotel, killing 22 people, including Mr. Annan's top envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and injuring more than 100 others. A second, smaller attack in September prompted the Secretary-General to eventually withdraw all international UN personnel.

The recommendation to return the UN to the country was ultimately made by the Steering Group on Iraq (SGI) - a high-level body composed of senior UN officials and the heads of UN entities operating in Iraq that provided policy advice to the Secretary-General. Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette, who chaired the SGI, tendered her resignation to Mr. Annan after the panel's findings were made known.

Mr. Annan declined to accept it, spokesman Fred Eckhard said, "taking into account the collective nature of the failures attributable" to the SGI as a whole. A letter addressed to Ms. Fréchette, in her capacity as SGI Chair, and shared with all members of the Steering Group, "expressed the Secretary-General's disappointment and regret with regard to the failures identified by the panel which are attributable to the SGI," the spokesman said.

A letter has also been sent to each head of a UN fund or programme that had staff in Iraq from the date of the UN's return to the country on 1 May to 19 August, critical of their management and lack of respect for staff ceilings and security clearances applicable in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq (UNOCHI) and the Building Manager of UNOCHI were each charged with misconduct and their cases referred to the UN personnel management office to initiate disciplinary proceedings against them.

The Secretary-General also immediately reassigned the Field Security Coordination Officer from the office of the UN Security Coordinator to an appropriate post not involving any functions related to security matters, Mr. Eckhard said.

In addition, a letter of reprimand has been sent to the Security Management Team in Iraq, an advisory body to Mr. Lopes da Silva.

"The Secretary-General regretted the failures identified by the Panel and expressed his determination to take all corrective measures, within his authority, to enhance the safety and security of all UN staff, especially those deployed in dangerous conflict areas," Mr. Eckhard said.

Mr. Annan also paid tribute to the staff who lost their lives or were injured in the 19 August attack, the spokesman said, and "renewed his confidence in the staff of the Organization for their devoted service and unflinching dedication to the United Nations."

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