UN Somalia aid envoy resigns over criticism

NEW YORK - Prickly sensibilities of top United Nations officials in the face of public criticism have triggered the resignation of Mohammed Sahnoun, the widely respected special representative to Somalia, at a time when the country needs it least, writes Leonard Doyle.

His departure is expected further to set back the relief efforts. The senior Algerian diplomat, who has won praise across the board for his no-nonsense approach to getting food aid to desperate Somalis after nearly a year of inactivity by the UN, submitted his resignation on Monday after he was censured by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Secretary-General, for publicly criticising the UN. If confirmed, Mr Sahnoun's departure 'will set the relief effort back light years' in the words of a diplomat who has followed his efforts to get aid flowing in the country where 2 million people are still on the brink of starvation.

It was Mr Sahnoun's recent appearance on the United States television programme 60 Minutes which proved to be the last straw for the UN aid agencies. At a recent co-ordinating meeting with Mr Boutros- Ghali his methods were attacked and he was accused of undermining the UN system.