Hurd dismisses plot against Boutros-Ghali

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The Independent Online
DOUGLAS HURD, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday dismissed fears by the UN Secretary-General of a British conspiracy against him and said Boutros Boutros-Ghali was a man of 'stature and style' who had 'taken over when the UN is having to face great burdens'.

Mr Hurd was speaking after Mr Boutros-Ghali said in a newspaper interview that he had come under particular criticism in the British press and suggested it was 'maybe because I am a wog'. The Foreign Secretary said: 'I think he is going to be a very effective Secretary-General', but acknowledged tacitly that Mr Boutros-Ghali might be overstretched and in need of some reassurance.

'The Secretary-General . . . finds that the queue of trouble outside his door grows all the time,' Mr Hurd said. 'I am not surprised that he feels occasional exasperation but we are on his side and we will work with him.'

Government sources vehemently denied suggestions that British diplomats at the UN had given briefings to British journalists criticising Mr Boutros-Ghali. 'Hannay is not that sort of fool,' one British official said in reference to Britain's ambassador to the UN, David Hannay. He said he could not rule out that other officials of various nationalities had expressed criticism of Mr Boutros-Ghali's ability and style.

Relations between Mr Boutros-Ghali and Britain, which did not support his appointment last year, have grown increasingly tense over the past few weeks. They have been further complicated by differences between the Secretary-General and Lord Carrington, the British EC negotiator on Yugoslavia.

The Secretary-General has privately expressed suspicions that British officials are poisoning opinion against him, and Mr Hannay has suggested Mr Boutros-Ghali has failed to observe normal procedure such as consulting the representatives of the permanent members of the Security Council.

British diplomats said the Government was aware of the perception that Mr Boutros-Ghali was growing increasingly unpopular, and said this was why Mr Hurd had gone out of his way to lend his support yesterday. One official said it was unfortunate that Mr Boutros-Ghali had a 'habit of sounding off in front of the media' rather than in front of minsters and diplomats; but the pattern appeared to be that despite this, Mr Boutros-Ghali got on 'sanely and soberly' with the job.

In his interview with the New York Times, Mr Boutros-Ghali also lashed out against 'Euro-centrism' in the UN, which he complained had shown more concern about the conflict in the former Yugoslavia than the civil war and mass starvation in Somalia. A British diplomat said this was understandable: 'He is, after all, from Africa.'

British officials were, meanwhile, indulging in a bit of private kitchen etymology on the much-disputed origins of the word 'wog'. Rather than an acronym for 'Wily Oriental gentleman' or the variations thereof, one insisted that the expression came from armbands worn by Egyptians employed locally by Britain last century, which read 'Wogs' - Working on Government Service.