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UN Palestinian refugee agency boss quits

November 6, 2019

Pierre Krähenbühl, the head of the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, has resigned amid a probe into alleged sexual misconduct and nepotism. The Swiss national has denied accusations of inappropriate behavior.

Pierre Krähenbühl
Image: imago-images/Xinhua/Li Muzi

The UN Secretary-General's office announced on Wednesday that the head of the agency that aids Palestinian refugees resigned on Wednesday following an internal investigation into misconduct allegations.

Swiss national Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), stepped down after being placed on "administrative leave" earlier on Wednesday.

The resignation comes after an ethics report raised allegations of possible sexual misconduct, nepotism and other abuses of power within the agency.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that the resignation was effective immediately. He added that the initial investigation did not include "fraud or misappropriation of operational funds."

"At this time, it is vital that member states and other partners remain committed to UNRWA and the services it provides," Dujarric added.

'Management issues'

In a statement issued earlier on Wednesday, the UN said the initial findings of the inquiry revealed "management issues" that were directly linked to Krähenbühl.

Meanwhile, a temporary replacement has been installed. "The UN Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Christian Saunders as the Officer-In-Charge for the interim period," the statement added.

In July this year, the Swiss foreign ministry said it would suspend funding of the UNRWA after the agency's own ethics department reported allegations of discrimination and other issues within the UNRWA.

At the time, Krähenbühl, who has led UNRWA since 2014, "unreservedly" rejected the allegations, adding he was prepared to cooperate with the investigation.

The UNRWA provides aid to over 5 million registered Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as well as those in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

The agency has faced financial difficulties since last year when the United States pulled its aid contribution which amounted to $360 million per year. Both US President Donald Trump's government and Israel have accused the UNRWA of anti-Israeli incitement and mismanagement.

rs,jsi/rc (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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