By MARLISE SIMONS
April 23, 2002
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THE HAGUE, April 22 — The United States succeeded today in ousting the director of the global agency charged with ridding the world of chemical weapons after an intense diplomatic campaign that made a number of countries uncomfortable.
José M. Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat who was unanimously re-elected last year as the director general of the 145-nation Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was voted out of office today after refusing repeated demands by the United States that he step down because of his "management style." No successor has been selected.
"I clearly made some people in Washington very uncomfortable because I was too independent," Mr. Bustani said afterward. "They want somebody more obedient."
The American motion to fire Mr. Bustani was approved by 48 nations, while 7 voted against and 43 abstained. Most European nations voted with the United States, except for France, which abstained. Mexico, one of the countries that voted no, called the maneuver "illegal" because there was no provision in the rules to dismiss the director general.
Diplomats said the many abstentions reflected the unease of a number of countries over the action. They said it had opened the door further for other international bodies to come under attack.
The United States, which is responsible for 22 percent of the agency's budget, had threatened to cut off funding until Mr. Bustani left.
"I think a lot of people swallowed this because they thought it was better for Bustani to be removed than have the U.S. pull out and see the organization collapse," said one European diplomat at the meeting.
The firing of Mr. Bustani follows the removal last week of Robert Watson, a British-born climatologist who had been outspoken on the threat of global warming, as the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He was removed after pressure from Washington and at least one American oil company.
Mr. Bustani said that American officials approached him in late February, asking him to resign, but not to make the request public. "They said they did not like my management style, but they said they were not prepared to elaborate," he said in an interview.
Several weeks later, the State Department circulated a lengthy paper among members of the group and dispatched envoys to a number of capitals to secure enough votes to fire Mr. Bustani. The paper accuses him of confrontational and abrasive conduct and poor administrative and financial management. American officials also said Mr. Bustani had taken some "ill-considered initiatives," without consulting with the United States and others.
"An effective director general needs to consult with member states, instead of launching initiatives," said an American official.