U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has described 2004 as a horrible year for the world body, but says he has no plans to resign, and intends to push for dramatic change in the year ahead. Mr. Annan acknowledged that the Iraq oil-for-food scandal has cast a shadow over the United Nations.
Mr. Annan began his traditional end-of-year news conference with a frank admission that this has been a painful 12 months, both for the United Nations and for him personally.
"There is no doubt that this has been a particularly difficult year, and I am relieved that 'annus horribilis' is coming to end," he said. "There has been lots of criticism of the U.N., particularly focusing on the allegations surrounding oil-for-food. These are serious allegations, we take them seriously, and this is why we are doing everything we can to get to bottom of this. I know that certain quarters have been quite persistent in attacking the U.N. and me. But there have also been some constructive criticism that we accept. "
Mr. Annan said he was pleased that an oil-for-food investigation led by former U.S. central bank chief Paul Volcker will be issuing an interim report of its findings in January. The report is to include internal audit reports that U.S. congressional investigators have been demanding.
Mr. Annan reiterated his intention to finish the two years remaining in his term as secretary-general, despite calls from some Republican U.S. lawmakers and conservative media for him to step down.
He said despite tense periods in the relationship with the Bush administration, there has been close cooperation on many issues.
"The U.S. needs the U.N. and the U.N. needs the U.S," he said. "We need way to find way of working together. The current criticism and the attacks have not been helpful for the relationship, regardless of which quarter it comes from. We need to find a way of putting those acrimonious discussions behind us and move on. We have a very important agenda to tackle for the next two years also, and I think it is important that everybody focuses on that. And I hope the Volcker report when it comes out will also help clear the air."
Mr. Annan described his recent visit to Washington as good, and said the subject of his resignation did not come up in his talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell and his designated successor, Condoleeza Rice. Mr. Annan's second five-year term as secretary-general is due to expire at the end of 2006.