AMERICAN ELECTION: Boutros Ghali gets hope of extra year at the UN

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The closing of President Clinton's election campaign yielded intriguing speculation of a possible solution to the fate of the United Nations Secretary- General, Boutros Boutros Ghali.

Within hours of the President's victory, rumours of possible compromise on Mr Boutros Ghali - perhaps offering him a face-saving extension of 12 months to his tenure - were surfacing. That would allow Mr Boutros Ghali to stand down when he turns 75 at the end of next year.

Publicly, however, the administration refused to retreat from its position that it is opposed to a second, five-year term, for the Egyptian diplomat. James Rubin, Mr Clinton's campaign adviser on foreign affairs, said: "The hope of some that President Clinton will change his mind and try to make a deal to extend Boutros Ghali's term is a vain hope. The time has come when those hopes must be given up and we begin the business of selecting a new Secretary-General."

Simultaneously, however, senior New York sources hinted that an offer made secretly by the US to the Secretary-General earlier this year, that would have allowed to him stay the extra year and stand down after his birthday , and which he at the time turned down flat, could be dusted off if both he and a sufficient number of states sympathetic to him, including France, choose to resurrect it.

"I think it could happen if Mr Boutros Ghali swallows his pride and goes for that solution," the source said. "The United States would be hard- pressed to refuse him."

The White House has been opposed to renewing Mr Boutros Ghali's tenure on the grounds that he has not worked fast enough to reform the UN and that without a new and reforming face, efforts to persuade Congress to grant new funds to the institution will be hopeless.

Whether Mr Boutros Ghali would now feel able to return to the table and beg for the deal he previously rejected is uncertain.

His eagerness to stay on in New York is evidently undiminished, however. To the dismay of the White House, the Secretary-General has over the past 48 hours been canvassing members of Congress to participate in a press conference planned later this week by the outgoing Illinois senator, Paul Simon, in support of the Boutros Ghali cause.

One White House official said: "He is desperate. Those phone calls are an unprecedented interference in domestic affairs."