General Assembly gives Annan what its president calls vote of confidence

8 December 2004

The United Nations General Assembly today gave Secretary-General Kofi Annan a standing ovation and a lengthy round of applause, in what its president called a "rare and valuable homage" and a vote of confidence - a characterization which followed calls for the UN leader's resignation from some members of the United States Congress.

The show of support came after Mr. Annan addressed the 191-member body on the findings of the panel he appointed to look into how the global community could address new security threats, including through UN reform.

With its ovation, the Assembly acknowledged Mr. Annan's actions on behalf of the entire international community and expressed its confidence in his work as the head of the UN, this year's president, Jean Ping of Gabon, said. Such confidence was well placed, particularly in a world that was often held hostage by doubt and confusion, he added.

The Secretary-General and his works on behalf of the UN had been touchstones for the peoples of the world, he declared.

The calls for Mr. Annan's resignation have come in connection with a US congressional probe into charges of fraud in the UN Oil-for-Food programme, under which ousted President Saddam Hussein was allowed to use a portion of Iraq's oil revenues for humanitarian relief while under sanctions for the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Asked at his daily briefing about the ovation, Mr. Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard said it was consistent with the expressions of support for the Secretary-General's work that the UN has received, both orally and in written form, from a number of Member States.

He noted that Mr. Annan had confirmed yesterday that he intended to stay on for the remaining two years of his term to focus on the priorities of UN reform and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seek to halve by 2015 a number of the world's ills, such as poverty, hunger and lack of access to medical care and education.

Asked about problems in United States-UN relations, Mr. Eckhard stated that "for us, this is not an active issue." He noted that calls for the Secretary-General's resignation had come from a few members of Congress, not the US administration.

At the moment, he added, no Member State has called for Mr. Annan to resign, while a number of governments and UN staff from all major duty stations have voiced their support. He said the US administration had not indicated that it wanted Mr. Annan to resign.

Since 1945 there has always been a minority in the United States that has opposed the work of the UN, he said. Since 1945, public opinion polls showed that some 20 to 25 per cent of Americans questioned the UN's usefulness, compared to some 60 to 70 per cent who supported it. Those numbers have fluctuated more recently, he added.

The US has to ask itself whether it wants to work through the UN to further its national and multilateral goals, Mr. Eckhard said.


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