Report attacks UN 'security failures'

The United Nations' "dysfunctional" security system led to unnecessary casualties in the bombing of its Iraq headquarters and the world body wrongly snubbed protection by US-led coalition forces, an independent panel has said.

The 40-page assessment by the UN-appointed panel was perhaps the most damning report on UN actions since those on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, Bosnia.

The report raised questions about the UN's ability to ensure the safety of its employees without appearing to work in concert with an occupying force that was itself the target of guerrilla attacks.

The UN staff union called the report a "damning indictment" of the organisation's attitude toward the security of its employees.

"But while it points to gross negligence and massive shortcomings ... it fails to hold anyone accountable," the union noted in a statement. "The real problem lies with the failures of management to adhere even to the existing security system."

Former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, who chaired the panel, said the United Nations must address the issue of accountability.

"In the end, I think everyone bears responsibility -- the member states who are asking the UN to carry out those responsibilities, and of course ... the buck stops always with the secretary-general," he said.

"But obviously there are clear messages to those who are actually in charge of the UN security co-ordination."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who appointed Ahtisaari to chair the panel, said in a statement that he would study the report and take steps "to ensure early implementation of its main recommendations".

Ahtisaari said the United Nations needed professional security assessments before sending staff anywhere, despite political pressure to act quickly.

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