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Annan Laments Sex Abuse by Peacekeepers

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has voiced concern that U.N. employees around the world are ignoring his zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse. VOA's Peter Heinlein reports Mr. Annan spoke to a high-level conference on eliminating sexual misconduct by U.N. staff.

The secretary-general told more than 100 senior managers, victims-rights advocates and representatives of non-governmental organizations that he is distressed by continuing reports of sexual abuse by peacekeeping troops and other U.N. employees in far-flung posts.

"There have been breaches of U.N. standards, such as sex with adult prostitutes," said Kofi Annan. "And there have been crimes such as rapes, paedophilia and human trafficking. My message of zero tolerance has still not got through to those who need to hear it, from managers and commanders on the ground, to all our other personnel."

Mr. Annan called it "tragic and intolerable" that the good work of tens of thousands of U.N. peacekeepers and civilian staff members is undermined by a few employees engaging in sexual exploitation and abuse.

"Such acts violate the trust and respect placed in us by the communities we are sent to help," he said. "They cause great harm to women and children who already face extreme hardship and violations in their daily lives. And they overshadow, in the eyes of the public, our many achievements."

There have been several instances during the past year of sex abuse charges against members of U.N. peacekeeping missions. Most were in Africa, where the vast majority of the world body's 90,000-plus peacekeepers are stationed.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric emphasized that the zero-tolerance is in effect throughout the U.N. system. But he said enforcement is sometimes difficult because 80 percent of the blue-helmeted U.N. troops are answerable only to the countries that send them to serve in peacekeeping operations.

Secretary-General Annan's adviser on the issue, Jordan's U.N. Ambassador Prince Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, has recommended formation of professional teams to investigate sexual abuse allegations against peacekeepers. He told Monday's high-level conference that the use of DNA sampling is being considered as a deterrent to sex crimes.