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Former UN chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali dies

Former UN chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali has died. (AAP)

Former UN chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali has died. (AAP)

Former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, whose term was marked by war in the former Yugoslavia, famine and genocide in Africa and confrontation with the United States, has died aged 93.

He died at Al Salam Hospital in Cairo on Tuesday, an official at the hospital said.

An Egyptian, Boutros-Ghali served as UN chief from 1992 to 1996, and was the first secretary-general from Africa.

Boutros-Ghali associated himself with the famine in Somalia and organised the first massive UN relief operation in the Horn of Africa nation.

But success eluded him there and elsewhere as the UN tottered in an increasingly disorderly post-communist world, with the world body and the big Security Council powers underestimating the deep animosity behind many conflicts.

Boutros-Ghali, who had a reputation for being proud and prickly, took on the daunting task of reorganising the UN bureaucracy by slashing posts and demoting officials at a pace that earned him the nickname “the pharaoh.”

But Washington had wanted him to do more to reform and the US would not pay more than $US1 billion ($A1.4 billion) in back dues while he remained at the helm.

Many diplomats suggested he was jettisoned by US President Bill Clinton’s administration during an election year to pre-empt criticism from Republicans deeply hostile to Boutros-Ghali and the UN.

In 1996, 10 Security Council members led by African states sponsored a resolution backing him for a second five-year term but the US vetoed Boutros-Ghali when his reappointment came up for a vote.

A Coptic Christian, Boutros-Ghali came from a wealthy family and his grandfather was Egypt’s prime minister until his assassination in 1910.

Before the UN, he had worked in the administrations of Egyptian presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.

He accompanied Sadat on the historic 1977 visit to Jerusalem and played a prominent role in the subsequent Camp David accords on the Middle East.

Under Mubarak, Boutros-Ghali was the architect of Egypt’s return to the centre of affairs in the Organisation of African Unity, the Nonaligned Movement and the Islamic Conference Organization.

In the UN job, Boutros-Ghali was criticised for its failure to act during the 1994 Rwandan genocide and for not pushing hard enough for UN intervention to end Angola’s civil war, which at the time was one of the longest running conflicts in the world.

Boutros-Ghali found himself jeered in Sarajevo, Mogadishu and Addis Ababa.

His style was to wade into crowds and confront protesters when security guards permitted.

“I am used to fundamentalists in Egypt arguing with me,” he told Reuters.

He shocked many in Sarajevo when he said he was not trying to belittle the horrors in Bosnia but that there were other countries where the “total dead was greater than here.”

He told Somali warlords to stop accusing the UN of colonialism, adding that Somalis should be worried former colonial powers would ignore their plight if they continued fighting.

“The Cold War is finished,” he said. “Nobody is interested in the poor countries in Africa or anywhere in the world. They can easily forget Somalia in 24 hours.”


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