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U.N. chief says welcomes criticism after Norway memo

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday he welcomed criticism, responding to a scathing internal memo by a Norwegian diplomat that was leaked to a newspaper last week.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-mmoon gestures during a meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the presidential Blue House in Seoul August 18, 2009. REUTERS/Jung Yeon-je/Pool

Ban told reporters he had been telephoned on Tuesday by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, who expressed regrets over the leak of the report written by Mona Juul, Norway’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations.

The memo had little good to say about Ban, charging that the former South Korean foreign minister suffered from “lack of charisma” and had displayed weak, ineffective and counterproductive leadership.

The report, published by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, was meant to be restricted to the Foreign Ministry in Oslo. Ban said it was normal for diplomats to report back to their home governments.

“As a matter of principle I welcome all these criticisms,” he said in his first public comment on the affair. “Criticisms, when they are constructive, help me improve my work, my performance.”

Ban said he would continue to work closely with U.N. member states and the media on the issue. A number of media outlets have published assessments, some of them highly critical, of Ban to mark the halfway stage in his first five-year term.

“You have the right to say what you believe and what you have seen in my job as the secretary-general. So I would welcome any such good suggestions and constructive criticisms,” he told journalists.

Ban said Stoere had voiced strong support for the United Nations during his phone call. He did not say whether the Norwegian minister had expressed agreement or disagreement with the substance of Juul’s memo.

Despite the furor, the U.N. chief is going ahead with a visit to Norway next week, during which he intends to visit the Arctic region in order to witness melting polar ice and the impact of global warming on the North Pole. Climate change has been a major focus of his U.N. policy.

Ban said he attached great importance to his trip to Norway -- a major contributor to U.N.-backed causes -- and was looking forward to talks with the country’s leaders.

Editing by Paul Simao