U.N. official expects dismissal

Elections agency head says she will fight harassment accusations

December 05, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

UNITED NATIONS -- The head of the U.N. elections agency acknowledged yesterday that she expected to receive a dismissal notice today and vowed to resist the move, which would come a week before crucial elections her office is overseeing in Iraq.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to deliver a dismissal letter to Carina Perelli, head of the United Nations' Electoral Assistance Division, the Associated Press reported and two U.N. officials confirmed. The officials said they could not speak for attribution because the action had yet to occur and involved "legalities."

"We're going to fight these charges because I reject every single one of them," said Perelli, whose office promotes and monitors free elections around the world and was credited publicly by President Bush for its work in Iraq.

Voting in the latest of three elections in Iraq that her office has organized starts Dec. 15. In an interview, Perelli said: "What is going to be the impact of this timing on the credibility of the process? In elections, you wish for the best, but I fear the worst."

Annan spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to comment.

Perelli said she had not received any formal notice of her dismissal but expected the action to be based on a U.N.-commissioned management review of her office in March.

The 22-page report, which was based on interviews with 29 current and former members of her staff, accused her of treating employees abusively, forcing them to run demeaning errands for her and other ranking officials, and creating an atmosphere where "sexual innuendo is part of the `fabric' of the division." This included practices such as "unwelcome advances" and "a constant stream of sexual references, jokes" and the use of "sexually explicit, coarse language," the report said.

Perelli, 48, is a sociologist and political scientist from Uruguay with a background in political activism from growing up under military rule. She became head of the electoral division in 1998 and has been viewed since as a rising star at the United Nations.

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