un staff vote against annan

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    ABC Online;
    UN secretary-general Kofi Annan admits there is clear evidence that civilian staff and a small number of troops in the UN peacekeeping force in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have committed sexual abuse.

    In a statement, he says that he is outraged by the incidents.

    Mr Annan says he has received a "detailed briefing... about the investigations which the UN initiated some time ago into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by both civilian and military peacekeeping personnel in the DRC."

    "I am afraid there is clear evidence that acts of gross misconduct have taken place," he said.

    "This is a shameful thing for the United Nations to have to say, and I am absolutely outraged by it."

    The confession comes as UN employees in New York prepare to make a historic vote of no confidence in Mr Annan, sources say.

    The UN staff union, in what officials say is the first vote of its kind in the more than 50-year history of the United Nations, is set to approve a resolution withdrawing its support for Mr Annan and UN management.

    Mr Annan has been in the line of fire over a high-profile series of scandals, including controversy about a UN aid program that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.

    On the DRC abuse claims, Mr Annan said: "Many of these allegations came to light last spring, and have since been looked into both by MONUC (the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo) itself and by the Office of Internal Oversight Services."

    "I am glad to say that the allegations concern only a small number of UN personnel," he said.

    "But it is vital that the investigations be speeded up. We cannot rest until we have rooted out all such practices from MONUC, from any other peacekeeping operation, and indeed anywhere in the organisation that they might occur.

    Mr Annan says those involved must be held fully accountable.

    The UN mission in DRC now consists of about 10,000 troops.

    It was first deployed in 2001, two years before a major war there actually ended.

    Mr Annan did not specify where the abuses had taken place, but reports of misconduct by UN personnel have previously mentioned the north-eastern town of Bunia.

    - AFP

    Dave R.
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