Monday, February 21, 2005

U.N. official quits amid sexual harassment case

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) -- United Nations refugee chief Ruud Lubbers told Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Sunday that he was resigning because of a lack of confidence in him over sexual harassment charges.

Lubbers' letter of resignation as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees was sent to Annan on Sunday, a spokesman said.

"The complaint of sexual harassment could not be substantiated," Lubbers wrote.

"For more than four years I gave all my energy to UNHCR," he said. "Now in the middle of a series of problems and with ongoing media pressure you apparently view this differently."

After allegations first surfaced last year that Lubbers had made unwanted sexual advances toward a female employee, Annan said there were insufficient grounds to fire him.

But on Friday, Annan consulted lawyers, clearly angered at the resurgence of sexual harassment allegations following a newspaper report that included graphic details.

Lubbers maintained his innocence, and noted that Annan had closed the case last July after obtaining legal advice.

Indicating the secretary-general had decided it was time for him to go, Lubbers said, "To be frank, and despite all my loyalty, insult has now been added to injury and therefore I resign as high commissioner."