Ban Ki-moon - Reuters - Jan. 17, 2011
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a news conference in Abu Dhabi on January 17, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned on Tuesday "preposterous" blog remarks posted by Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, in which he endorsed conspiracy theories claiming the United States government backed and executed the 9/11 attacks.

In a rare condemnation by the UN of an official within the organization, Ban said Falk's remarks were "an affront to the memory of the more than 3,000 people who died in the attack."

A Princeton Professor, Falk wrote his a blog this month that there had been an "apparent cover-up" by U.S. authorities over the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which hijackers flew airliners into the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon near Washington.

U.S. Ambassador to UN Susan Rice said in a statement that she was "appalled" by the blog written by Falk on January 11, 2011, adding that "Mr. Falk’s comments are despicable and deeply offensive, and I condemn them in the strongest terms."

"I have registered a strong protest with the UN on behalf of the United States," Rice wrote, adding that "Mr. Falk’s latest commentary is so noxious that it should finally be plain to all that he should no longer continue in his position on behalf of the UN."

"The United States is deeply committed to the cause of human rights and believes that cause will be better advanced without Mr. Falk and the distasteful sideshow he has chosen to create," she added.

In a letter to Ban last Thursday, UN Watch director Hillel Neuer called on the UN chief to "strongly condemn Mr. Falk's offensive remarks -- and ... immediately remove him from his post."

A letter of reply from Nambiar said Ban "condemns (Falk's) remarks. He has repeatedly stated his view that any such suggestion is preposterous -- and an affront to the memory of the more than 3,000 people who died in the attack."

Nambiar said Falk and other rights experts were not appointed by Ban but by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, a 47-nation body created by the UN General Assembly in 2006. "Their continuance in their jobs is thus for the Council to decide," he added.

UN Watch says on its website it is a non-governmental organisation, accredited with the United Nations and affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, that aims to monitor UN performance against the yardstick of the UN Charter.

It supports UN goals but frequently criticizes the Human Rights Council, saying it constantly berates Israel but ignores many rights violations by developing countries. It has often targeted Falk, the council's special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, for anti-Israeli comments.

In a statement, Neuer welcomed Nambiar's letter but said the Human Rights Council could not be trusted to fire Falk. He said Ban and UN human rights chief Navi Pillay had "the power and responsibility to play an influential and decisive role."