The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has demanded that Secretary-General Kofi Annan repudiate criticism of the United States made by his top deputy. But Mr. Annan rejected the envoy's demand.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton says Deputy U.N. Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown made a grave mistake in accusing the United States of attempting to undermine the world body.
In a speech Tuesday, Malloch Brown charged that U.S. administrations of both parties had for decades failed to stand up for the U.N. against its domestic critics. He said the world body is not well understood in the U.S. heartland because much of what the public hears comes from its loudest detractors in the media.
The number two U.N. official charged that there is too much unchecked U.N. bashing and stereotyping" by American media outlets. He pointed in particular to the popular conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and the highly-rated Fox News channel.
It was a rare public criticism of a member state by a U.N. official.
Ambassador Bolton says he telephoned Secretary-General Annan Wednesday and urged him to publicly repudiate his deputy's remarks for the good of the world body.
"To have the deputy secretary-general criticize the United States in such a manner can only do grave harm to the United Nations. And even worse was the condescending and patronizing tone about the American people. Fundamentally, and very sadly, this was a criticism of the American people, not the American government, by an international civil servant. It's just illegitimate," he said.
Mr. Annan was not available for comment, but a spokesman said the secretary-general stands by his deputy's comments.
Malloch Brown was named to the number two U.N. post in March. He defended his remarks Wednesday, saying they had been intended to spark debate on U.N. reform. He expressed surprise that the speech had been characterized as anti-American.
"To me it was enormously important to deliver that call to my American friends, but to do it in a way which is not possibly characterized as anti-US. But which is intended as pro-US speech in that its central point is an appeal for more consistent public leadership by the United States in the United Nations… For the life of me I can't understand how that can be construed as an anti-American speech," he said.
Malloch Brown told reporters his comments about the United States were partly a reflection of growing U.N. frustration at a looming budget crisis. Under a deal engineered by Washington last December, money could stop flowing to the world body at the end of June unless reforms are adopted.
The United States, Japan, and European countries backing the reform proposals pay more than 85 percent of the U.N. budget.
But the reforms face fierce opposition from a bloc of mostly developing countries comprising a majority of the General Assembly.
Malloch Brown pointed out that he has been among the most vocal critics of attempt to block reform, and suggested his comments about the United States were an attempt to balance those criticisms.