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Lubbers Resigned To Avoid Media Pressure on UN

UN's Top Refugee Chief Says He Resigned To Avoid Adding To Media Pressure On UN

Ruud Lubbers, who yesterday announced his resignation as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, today told staff of the Geneva-based agency he had acted out of concern for the world body's public image.

"My decision to resign has much to do with my wish not to complicate life for the Secretary-General, who is facing a series of problems and ongoing pressure from the media," he wrote in a letter sent to 6,000 UNHCR staff spread out over 115 countries.

The 65-year old former Prime Minister of the Netherlands stepped down amid press coverage of a previously internal UN report on sexual harassment charges brought against him by a female UNHCR staffer over an incident which took place in December, 2003.

That report, by the UN Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), was presented in July, 2004, to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who decided that the complaint could not be sustained by the evidence.

On Friday, after The Independent published details of the report, Mr. Annan met with Mr. Lubbers in New York. Speaking to reporters afterward, the High Commissioner maintained his innocence -- as he had from the start -- and said he would not resign.

But two days later, he tendered his resignation, which was accepted by the Secretary-General as an opportunity for UNHCR to make a fresh start.

Mr. Lubbers, in his letter to staff, wrote "there should be no gap in leadership" at the refugee agency and said he would be available until a successor is ready to take over.

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