U.S. is adamant in opposition to 2nd term for Boutros-Ghali Initial moves to improve efficiency were dropped; leadership questioned


NEW YORK -- When Boutros Boutros-Ghali became secretary-general of the United Nations five years ago, he appointed Richard L. Thornburgh, the former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. attorney general, as his deputy and assigned him to cut waste and root out corruption.

Thornburgh spent a year as undersecretary-general. He drafted a report calling for several management reforms, particularly the creation of an inspector general to control and investigate how money was spent.

But the calls went unheeded.

According to former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Boutros-Ghali ordered the report burned. State Department officials said last week that they thought Boutros-Ghali had fed it to the paper shredder.

"Burned? I never heard that," Thornburgh said. "I know it was deep-sixed rejected summarily. It was pretty well-received by everyone except people at the U.N."

The incident is just one of several that American policy-makers -- some of whom remain in high State Department positions -- point to when they discuss why the United States wants Boutros-Ghali out.

The United States, which five years ago supported Boutros-Ghali because he had promised to appoint an American to help reform the organization, is now adamantly opposed to the secretary-general.

Last week, it took the unprecedented action of using its veto in the U.N. Security Council to reject Boutros-Ghali's bid for a second term. State Department officials say the move, promised in June, came after years of frustration.

Although the United States appeared isolated as the sole dissenter in the Security Council's 14-1 vote, Boutros-Ghali has offended a good number of diplomats, not just Americans, during his five years in office.

Part of the problem is what has been described as his high-handed and arrogant manner. More significant, some say, are failures of leadership during the U.N. rescue mission in Somalia and the war between Bosnians and Serbs.

"He does not understand the role of the secretary-general," complained John Dominico Pico, an Italian who spent 20 years at the United Nations and was an assistant secretary-general to Boutros-Ghali and his predecessor, Javier Perez de Cuellar.

"His managerial style would not allow anyone to operate politically," said Pico, who quit the United Nations in 1992 with the feeling that Boutros-Ghali had rendered it ineffective.

Pico said Boutros-Ghali's refusal to call in NATO airstrikes to enforce a peace in Bosnia was a "criminal" misjudgment based on his unfounded fear that Serbs would take U.N. troops hostage.

Boutros-Ghali, 74, came to the United Nations in 1992 as a seasoned and world-renowned Egyptian diplomat and scholar.

In 1977, he was a key adviser to Anwar Sadat in drafting the Camp David peace agreement with Israel. He was Egypt's deputy prime minister for foreign affairs until his election as secretary-general in December 1991.

In his early months at the United Nations, he appeared to satisfy U.S. demands for reform of the 185-nation body, cutting the bloated staff by as much as 10 percent. He created an inspector general, although not with the strong powers that Thornburgh would like to see.

The United States responded by beginning to pay more than $1 billion in dues that had been withheld by Congress in protest of what many Republicans felt was waste and corruption in a world body riddled with pockets of anti-American sentiment.

After President George Bush lost the 1992 election, however, things changed. Thornburgh said Boutros-Ghali stopped talking to him.

"He didn't give me as much as the time of day," Thornburgh said. "All the reform initiatives died. And all the bureaucratic yappers who wanted to keep their high-level positions were safe."

Congress again began to withhold U.N. dues. The unpaid dues, which had shrunk to $500 million, have swelled to about $1.5 billion.

Resentment toward the United States in the world body is heightened by the fact that Washington owes so much in unpaid dues, and by the feeling that U.S. power must be held in check. Several U.N. diplomats criticized the United States for disclosing its opposition to Boutros-Ghali before consulting with members of the Security Council.

In the meantime, the United Nations is faced with the task of coming up with a process to find a leader who is acceptable to the United States and each of the other 184 member nations.

Pub Date: 11/29/96

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