World News

Norway diplomat blasts "absent" U.N. chief: report

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s ambassador to the United Nations has accused Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of weak, ineffective and at times counterproductive leadership during recent crises, the daily Aftenposten reported on Wednesday.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon leaves after he made a call of condolence for former President Kim Dae-jung at a hospital in Seoul August 18, 2009. REUTERS/Choi Bu-Seok

Aftenposten published what it said was a letter from Ambassador Mona Juul to Norway’s Foreign Ministry, where she said Ban was late in handling challenges and that his abrasive style irked even seasoned diplomats.

“At a time when the need for the United Nations and for multilateral solutions to global crises is greater than ever, Ban and the United Nations are conspicuous in their absence,” Aftenposten quoted the letter as saying.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the letter, referring reporters to Aftenposten quotes from Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, who told the daily that he noted the matter and said South Korean Ban was “hardworking” and “attentive.”

The report comes just days before Ban visits Norway, an advocate of active multilateral diplomacy which has worked with the United Nations on a number of peace initiatives including the now collapsed Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters in New York: “We have seen the same reports that you have. We do not know the veracity of the report to which you refer, and so I would suggest that you follow up with the Norwegians for their information on that.”

In the letter, Juul said Ban had failed to make the United Nations a relevant voice during the financial crisis and said there was “widespread worry” the world body would not contribute much to environmental talks leading up to a summit in Copenhagen.

Juul reportedly wrote that Ban was a mere “passive observer” after Myanmar’s arrest of opposition leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi and that his visit there to meet hardline generals was “fruitless” and may create problems for lower level diplomats.

Juul said Ban was “helpless” in trying to curb atrocities during the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka earlier this year.

In other “crisis areas” such as Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Congo, Ban’s “passive and not very committed appeals seem to fall on deaf ears,” she wrote.

She said that many diplomats had felt that Ban should be given more time to grow into his role, but now halfway through his term they concede that his “lack of charisma is a problem.”

Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa and Lou Charbonneau in New York