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U.N. Refugee Chief Resigns Amid Harassment Charges

February 21, 2005|From Times Wire Services

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers quit Sunday amid a festering controversy over allegations that he sexually harassed female employees at the world body's refugee agency.

Just two days after saying he would stay in his post, Lubbers submitted a bitter resignation letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and proclaimed his innocence.

The allegation, made by a female employee of the refugee agency in Geneva, was investigated by the United Nations last summer.

Annan decided at the time that there was not enough evidence against Lubbers.

Several other women later came forward with similar complaints.

On Friday, after a meeting between Annan and Lubbers in New York, U.N. officials indicated the case was not over and that Lubbers' future as refugee chief was in doubt.

Sunday's resignation marked the end of a long career for Lubbers, 65, who served as the Netherlands' longest governing prime minister from 1982 to 1994.

"For more than four years, I gave all my energy to UNHCR," said Lubbers, who has led the agency's more than 6,000 staff members since January 2001. "To be frank, despite all my loyalty, insult has now been added to injury and therefore I resign as high commissioner."

Annan's office issued a statement thanking Lubbers for the "devotion and the commitment he has shown to refugees" and said his decision to step down was in the best interest of the refugee agency.

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