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UN's Annan Plans Major Staff Shakeup

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is planning a large-scale staff reorganization as he braces for the release of a report outlining management failures in the Iraq oil-for-food program. Several senior staffers have already resigned, and more will be leaving soon.

As he arrived at work Monday, Secretary-General Annan told reporters he is preparing big changes in the U.N. management structure. While he was away the past two weeks visiting the Asian tsunami zone, the panel he appointed to investigate the U.N.-administered Iraq oil-for-food program released internal audits showing widespread mismanagement.

Mr. Annan said he had been paying close attention to the conclusions reached by panel chairman Paul Volcker. "I saw Mr. Volcker's comments on the audit reports which indicate that we have work to do in the management area and we need clearer transparency which I intend to work on," he said. "I will be making some proposals and taking some action very shortly. I have made some changes and more are on the way."

Some changes have already been announced. Mr. Annan's longtime chief of staff Iqbal Riza resigned unexpectedly last month. He was replaced by U.N. Development Program chief Mark Malloch Brown, in what was seen as a shift in tone. Mr. Malloch Brown, a highly-respected former World Bank executive, is widely expected to lead initiatives to improve the world body's image and performance.

Several other top executives are also leaving, including Undersecretary-General for Management Catherine Bertini, who has come under fire from the staff union, and U.N. Controller Jean-Pierre Halbwachs.

Mr. Annan announced Monday that he is also appointing the outgoing U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman as head of UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency. Ms. Veneman, a Republican, will replace Carol Bellamy, a Democrat in what is seen as an attempt to patch up frayed relations with the Bush administration.

Mr. Annan's comment came on a day when his new chief of staff Mark Malloch Brown was quoted in the New York Times as saying the United Nations must win back the trust of the American public and world public opinion and world public opinion.

The Secretary-General himself attempted to downplay the significance of the changes.

"Some people were leaving and it offered an opportunity to rethink the team, and remake the team. So, I don't think one should associate any departure with a management shakeup," he said. "Several people were going to leave anyway and that opportunity was offered and so I decided to take a look at the whole team."

The changes come two weeks before the Volcker Commission is due to release the first of two reports outlining the results of an eight-month investigation into allegations of fraud and corruption in the $64-billion oil-for-food program.

The staff shakeup began after friends, diplomats and close confidants urged the Secretary-General to repair the relationship with Washington.

The New York Times Monday reported that U.S. Ambassador John Danforth called on Mr. Annan last month to urge him not to try to defend the United Nations role in the oil-for-food program by shifting the blame to the United States or other members of the Security Council.