UN chief accuses British of racism

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The Independent Online
THE VITRIOLIC dispute between Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the United Nations Secretary-General, and Britain worsened yesterday when he suggested that the reason he had been criticised in the British press was 'maybe because I'm a wog'.

In a tempestuous interview published in the New York Times yesterday, Mr Boutros-Ghali complained about the 'ego of certain members of the Security Council' - taken to be a reference to Britain's ambassador, Sir David Hannay - and suggested that what he termed 'Europe-centrism' was one of the greatest obstacles to building a successful UN.

Mr Boutros-Ghali also talked about his disagreement with British diplomats in an interview published in yesterday's Independent. The conflict goes back to the time his nomination to his present post was obstructed by Britain. While claiming that he was too old for the job and unfit to carry out urgently needed reforms of the organisation, Britain adopted the position that Mr Boutros-Ghali was too pro-French.

The scars of that wound are still visible. In the Independent interview Mr Boutros-Ghali said: 'The Entente Cordiale was signed in 1905, but the Hundred Years War still goes on.'

The signs are that the rift between Mr Boutros-Ghali and Britain is widening. The tone of his latest remarks is unprecedented for a Secretary-General, and the damage caused by his outburst may be irreparable.

The dispute burst into the open last month when Mr Boutros- Ghali unexpectedly challenged the Security Council's decision to send more peace-keepers to Bosnia after the London ceasefire accord arranged by Lord Carrington. Mr Boutros-Ghali said the Council was attending to what he described as 'the war of the rich', while ignoring the civil war and famine in Somalia.

The ceasefire was broken almost before the ink was dry and in his New York Times interview Mr Boutros-Ghali was scornful of Lord Carrington's refusal to go to the scene of the fighting to get a more lasting ceasefire, as Cyrus Vance, the former US Secretary of State, had done earlier in the year in Croatia.

The suggestion that British press coverage of the Secretary- General's clash with the Security Council was overladen with racism has caused deep embarrassment among diplomats. Third World nations expressed particular dismay and the Rio Group of Latin American countries convened a special meeting to discuss the interview.

When he was appointed seven months ago, the 69-year-old Secretary-General was viewed as a cosmopolitan figure who would use his multicultural background to weld the UN together. An Arab Coptic Christian married to an Egyptian Jew, he was educated in France and elected at the behest of Africa.