Europeans dominate list for UN refugee chief


The United Nations on Thursday released a "short list" of eight personalities, six of them Europeans, vying for the job of U.N. refugee chief to replace Ruud Lubbers, the former Dutch prime minister who resigned after months of controversy.
The new procedure of releasing candidates in advance for key U.N. agencies is meant to replace some of the behind-the-scenes horse-trading and elicit praise and criticism from outside experts before the post is filled.
The refugee agency has an annual budget of close to $1 billion and 6,000 staff in 115 countries to deal with some 17 million homeless people around the world.
Lubbers resigned last month as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees under pressure from U.N. Secretary-General Annan and his staff following months of sexual harassment allegations, which he vigorously denies.
On the list are Gareth Evans, the former colorful foreign minister of Australia and now president of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank, and Kamel Morjane of Tunisia, the assistant high commissioner for refugees.
The six Europeans are: Emma Bonino of Italy, a former European commissioner for human rights and now a member of the European parliament; Hans Dahlgren, Sweden's state secretary for foreign affairs and a former U.N. ambassador; former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres; Soren Jessen-Peterson of Denmark, now head of the U.N. administration in Kosovo; Bernard Kouchner of France, former health minister and founder of Doctors without Borders, and Mark Verwilghen, Belgium's minister for economy, energy and foreign trade.
U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the views of the refugee community, outside of governments, would be sought, after which the candidates would be interviewed by senior U.N. management officials and then by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his deputy, Louise Frechette. The nominee would then be presented to the General Assembly for approval.