Bunhill: Sandstorm

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The Independent Online
NO SOONER has Javier Perez de Cuellar, the former UN secretary-general, hung up his diplomatic boots than he has become embroiled in a heated business row. Last week, Omnium Nord-Africain (ONA), Morocco's largest financial and food group, announced that he had been appointed to the post of vice- president of one of its subsidiaries, called Optorg.

Not so, said Perez de Cuellar. He discussed the idea but rejected it because it could be misinterpreted. 'I swear I am not the vice-president . . . I have signed nothing.'

Too late. Polisario, the Western Sahara separatist group, has leapt in, accusing him of corruption. Before leaving the UN, Perez de Cuellar recommended to the UN a Moroccan plan for the Western Sahara. The president of ONA, Fuad Filali, is the son of the Moroccan foreign minister and is married to a daughter of King Hassan II.

Even with a flat denial from Perez de Cuellar, the Moroccan company repeated its claim that he is its vice- president. Perez de Cuellar is furious. 'Do you think I come that cheap? That I am going to sell myself for the vice- presidency of a company which in France (where he has an apartment) would be fourth category? I am 73 years old and, fortunately, I do not need money that badly.'