In his last major speech before stepping down as United Nations chief, Kofi Annan accused the US of appearing to ditch human rights and the rule of law. In what is being seen as criticism of US President George W Bush, he said America’s strength did not give it a right to do as it pleased. “Right is Might,” Annan told an audience in Missouri. “That’s why this country has historically been in the vanguard of the global human rights movement. But that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism. When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused.”
In his ten years as Secretary General, Annan has often been at cross purposes with the United States and President Bush, especially over Iraq. Washington has played down Annan’s comments saying it is not the UN chief’s job to be in “lock-step” with the US or any other country. And a senior Republican dismissed the speech as a “classic case of misdirection aimed at the United States”.