Thursday, August 03, 2006

US rebukes UN No. 2 for criticizing Mideast policy

US rebukes UN No. 2 for criticizing Mideast policy
By Saul Hudson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States sharply rebuked the No. 2 U.N. official on Wednesday for his repeated criticism of Washington after he said America should allow others to share the lead in solving the Lebanon crisis.

"We are seeing a troubling pattern of a high official of the U.N. who seems to be making it his business to criticize member states and, frankly, with misplaced and misguided criticisms," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

While Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown denied his comments were even critical of the United States, he had touched a nerve. McCormack's complaint deviated from the typically measured diplomatic exchanges between the State Department and the United Nations.

Senior U.N. officials normally refrain from overt public censure of member states. But the Briton known for his blunt remarks who finishes his term at the end of the year has criticized U.S. policy over the last few months.

McCormack's remarks were in response to an interview published in the Financial Times on Wednesday, in which the U.N. official also told Britain to adopt a lower profile to end fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Malloch Brown defended his remarks.

"I don't think the U.S has anything to object to in the comments," he told PBS.

"I was really in fact in the interview calling for the U.S. to reach out to France and others to make sure it was demonstrating a broad multilateral coalition and within a single news cycle of my calling for that, it was doing it," he added. "I may be prophetic but I wasn't critical."

The controversy reignited tensions between the United Nations and the Bush administration that had gradually eased since officials on both sides repeatedly clashed during the buildup to the Iraq war.

Wednesday's dispute also reflects international strains over the Lebanon crisis, where the United States has few backers other than Britain for its refusal to demand a quick cease-fire from Israel, its top Middle East ally.

In June, Malloch Brown drew U.S. ire after he accused the Bush administration of failing to stand up to domestic critics of the United Nations. In that instance, Annan resisted U.S. calls to repudiate his deputy.

(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz)