Annan seeks second term at U.N. helm
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday that he would seek a second term as the United Nations' chief diplomat when the first expires at the end of 2001.
The announcement from the soft-spoken and unpretentious Ghanaian had been expected, and many colleagues say his reappointment is all but a foregone conclusion
"He knows how far to go, without stepping on the toes of anyone," said a leading African diplomat.
Reform efforts applauded
Last week, a coalition of African nations endorsed Annan's candidacy, citing his "leadership and skills" in areas such as United Nations reform, the overhauling of peacekeeping operations and forging partnerships with the world business community.
"He has been able to engage the United Nations in areas previously off-limits, and continues to impress us all with his dignity and concern for others," said Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti.
A lifelong bureaucrat, Annan scored high marks with diplomats for his efforts to reform the U.N. system and open it up for examination by member states and the outside world. He has also been applauded by some diplomats for willingly taking on the thorny issues of the Middle East, Iraq and Libya.
His strong ties with Washington helped tone down critics like Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, paving the way for an agreement with Congress to pay back the bulk of the $1.3 billion in back dues the United States owed the United Nations.
Annan has also embraced private industry as a vehicle for eliminating poverty. During his tenure, companies such as Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson agreed to provide equipment and personnel to aid in disaster relief and development.
Annan spearheaded the "Global Compact" -- an agreement signed by more than 50 multinational corporations -- to abide by universally accepted principles of law and human rights.
Focus on Africa
A native of Ghana, Annan has focused more than his predecessors on the problems facing Africa -- such as regional wars, poverty, AIDS and famine.
"In the past five years, Kofi Annan focused on Africa because the Africans had the impression the United Nations was not doing enough for them," said Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali.
But some diplomats and U.N.-watchers have been strongly critical of the secretary-general.
In the wake of peacekeeping failures in Bosnia and Rwanda, Annan called for international intervention on behalf of human rights in a 1999 speech to the General Assembly.
"If the new commitment to intervention in the face of extreme suffering is to retain the support of the world's peoples, it must be -- and must be seen to be -- fairly and consistently applied to, irrespective of region or nation. Humanity, after all, is indivisible," Annan said.
China and Russia, faced with separatist movements in Tibet and Chechnya and adamant about respect for state sovereignty, bristled at Annan's call for humanitarian intervention.
Criticism over Iraq
Other critics say Annan's views are simply unrealistic.
"I have no doubt that he's well intended. I have no doubt that he's honest. I have no doubt that he means well, but I think this is folly ... the ravings of a genuinely naive person," said author David Rieff.
When Annan returned from Baghdad in February, 1998, after negotiating a deal with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on weapons inspections, he told reporters: "Can I trust Saddam Hussein? I think I can do business with him."
Those words have come back to haunt him. Since then, relations between Iraq and the United Nations have deteriorated and Baghdad has barred weapons inspectors from entering the country.
Some relatives of the 270 people killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 have criticized Annan for helping to work out a deal between Libya, the United States and Britain, which said that any prosecution in the Lockerbie case would not undermine the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
But some of his supporters say the deal made it possible for some justice in the case, now that two Libyans stood trial for the bombing and one was convicted.
Annan, 62, is the odds-on favorite to win the backing of the Security Council for another term when it votes on his candidacy later this year. He has strong support from key nations on the Council, including the United States. In January, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called him "a brilliant secretary-general."
But China, with power to veto any candidate, has not yet announced its position on another Annan term. Some Asian nations, noting that the past two secretaries-general have been from Africa, feel the next should come from Asia. Diplomats say, however, that since no clear opposition candidate has emerged, Annan will likely be re-elected overwhelmingly.
Annan joined the United Nations system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization.
He held a variety of administrative jobs in U.N. agencies, and in 1990, was asked by then-Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar to facilitate the repatriation of more than 900 international U.N. staff and the release of Western hostages in Iraq.
Before he was appointed secretary-general, Annan served as assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations from March, 1993, to February, 1994, and then as undersecretary general from February, 1994 to October, 1995, and most of 1996.
Annan was appointed secretary-general to succeed Boutros Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian who had sought a second term but was vetoed by the United States.
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