UNITED NATIONS — The blame game between Algeria and the United Nations significantly escalated yesterday as senior officials of both camps publicly made accusations related to each other's responsibility for security failures in last month's terrorist attack on U.N. offices in Algiers.
The U.N. Development Program administrator, Kemal Dervis, told reporters that Algeria's security officials declined to erect barriers around the Algiers U.N. headquarters prior to last month's bombing, despite requests to do so from the world body's security officials. Seventeen U.N. employees were killed in the December 11 twin car bombing, the largest terrorist attack ever against the world organization.
At the same time, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem of Algeria said yesterday that his country would not welcome the independent inquiry team that Secretary-General Ban has said he would establish. The premier spoke to reporters yesterday after meeting Mr. Ban in Madrid during a U.N.-sponsored conference.
"Algeria's view on this issue has not been taken into consideration," and therefore the U.N. inquiry "cannot be welcomed favorably," Mr. Belkhadem told a government-owned daily, El Moudjahid. His complaint may have been a reaction to allegations made last week by unnamed U.N. officials about the government's shortcomings in protecting the organization from terrorists.
Such allegations became more acute yesterday as they were expressed publicly by Mr. Dervis, who said officials of the organization asked the Algerian government "for particular security measures, including blocking off the streets" and that "the government did not respond to that."
Mr. Dervis, a Turkish national who arrived in Algiers immediately after the deadly bombing, also said that in at least six countries where the U.N. is active, employees have since been asked to avoid coming to their U.N. offices and to work from their residences instead. He could not explain why, after Algerian government installations were bombed by an Islamic organization last April, the U.N. security preparedness in Algiers remained at the lowest level — Level 1.
And in an apparent reference to decisions made by the U.N. top security official, David Veness of Britain, Mr. Dervis expressed criticism of some current security arrangements. Specifically, he said he would not have allowed the U.N. offices in Pakistan to remain, as they currently are, under Level 1 security arrangements after last month's assassination of a former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
After the Algiers attack, the widow of the man charged with security there, Babacar Ndiaye, said her husband had warned his superiors about terrorist threats against the organization. According to several sources, Ndiaye had specifically written to a UNDP coordinator, Mark De Bernis, asking for improvement in security measures. Mr. Dervis said yesterday that he would not react until the independent investigation ordered by Mr. Ban would delivered its findings.