Tuesday, March 11, 2008

UN(DP) 'has become an enemy'

New York - A panel reviewing security at United Nations facilities worldwide is not aiming to assign blame for any security lapses ahead of bomb attacks in Algiers that killed 17 UN staff, the panel's head said on Thursday.

Veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, who was chairing the six-member group, said he would try to help UN member states understand that some militants no longer saw the UN as neutral and that heightened security was essential.

"I think there are quite a lot of people who do not make a secret that they consider that the UN has become their enemy and is therefore a legitimate target," Brahimi, 74, said.

"Who these people are, of course, I don't know," he told a news conference. "I think the UN has been put on notice that their flag is not anymore a protection."

Al-Qaeda claims Algiers attacks

One of his tasks as chairperson of the review panel would be to look into the security conditions at the UN compound in Algiers prior to the December 11 bomb attacks that killed at least 41 people, 17 of them UN staff.

A group called al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the Algiers attacks.

Kemal Dervis, head of the United Nations Development Programme, the UN agency that lost the most staff in the Algiers bombing, had said Algeria had failed to act on a UN request to block off the street in Algiers, where the world body offices were located.

In January, media reports quoted the widow of the former head of UN security in Algiers, Babacar Ndiaye of Senegal, as saying her husband, who died in the attack, had pleaded with UN management to step up security, but had been ignored.

Brahimi said he would look closely at any security lapses ahead of the bombing, but would not try to determine who at the UN or in the Algerian government might have been personally responsible for them.

Algeria opposes UN panel

Brahimi insisted he was conducting a security review and not a full-scale investigation.

"I don't like the word investigation because it makes it look like I'm going to be a policeman," he said. "I'm not Sherlock Holmes. I don't know how to do those things."

The Algerian government had initially opposed the UN panel, but Brahimi said this was because Algeria had not been consulted when the creation of the panel was first announced in January. This "misunderstanding" has been cleared up, he said.

Brahimi's words likely would disappoint the UN Staff Union, which represented employees and had criticised Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for choosing Brahimi without consulting it.

The union said this week in a letter to Ban that it wanted a full investigation of security ahead of the Algiers bombing and expressed disappointment that he appeared "to have no interest in seeking a determination of accountability".

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