UN announces death of former UN Chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali

MAGGIE MICHAEL | 2/18/2016, 12:01 p.m.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a veteran Egyptian diplomat and a single term as U.N. secretary-general, has died. He was 93.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali. AP

His cousin Fakhry Abdelnour is the head of an oil company called AMEP, which was accused of getting oil concessions through the executive director of the oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan.

Boutros-Ghali frequently took vocal stances that angered the Clinton administration — such as his strong criticism of Israel after the 1996 shelling of a U.N. camp in Lebanon that killed some 100 refugees.

In writings after leaving the U.N., he accused Washington of using the world body for its own political purposes and said U.S. officials often tried to directly control his actions.

He wrote in his 1999 book “Unvanquished” that he “mistakenly assumed that the great powers, especially the United States, also trained their representatives in diplomacy and accepted the value of it. But the Roman Empire had no need for diplomacy. Neither does the United States.”

His opponents, in turn, accused him of being too sluggish in pushing U.N. reforms. Boutros-Ghali blamed slowness in reform on the lack of money and pointed out that the United States was $1.4 billion in arrears on payments.

Noted for his dignified bearing and Old World style, Boutros-Ghali was the son of one of Egypt’s most important Coptic Christian families. His grandfather, Boutros Ghali Pasha, was Egypt’s prime minister from 1908 to 1910.

Born Nov. 14, 1922, Boutros-Ghali studied in Cairo and Paris and became an academic, specialized in international law.

In 1977, then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat named him minister of state without portfolio, shortly before Sadat’s landmark visit to Israel to launch peace negotiations.

Sadat’s rapprochement with Israel brought harsh criticism from across Egypt’s political spectrum. His foreign minister, Ismail Fahmi, resigned in protest at normalization with Israel. So Sadat turned to Boutros-Ghali, naming him acting foreign minister and minister of state for foreign affairs.

Boutros-Ghali played a major role in subsequent negotiations that produced the Camp David peace framework agreements in September 1978 and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in March 1979, the first such between an Arab state and Israel.

Israelis considered Boutros-Ghali a hawkish negotiator. But he also staunchly defended Egypt’s peace efforts against fierce Arab opposition. At one African summit, he sharply retorted to Algerian criticism, saying, “Algeria wants to fight Israel to the last Egyptian soldier.”

President Hosni Mubarak, who succeeded Sadat in October 1981, kept Boutros-Ghali in the same post. But Boutros-Ghlai was never promoted to the post of foreign minister because it was considered too controversial to have a Christian in the key post of a Muslim majority country.

After leaving the United Nations, Boutros-Ghali served from 1998 to 2002 as secretary-general of La Francophonie—a grouping of French-speaking nations. In 2004, he was named the president of Egypt’s new human rights council, a body created by Mubarak amid U.S. pressure on Arab nations to adopt political and democratic reforms.

He was married to Lea, an Egyptian Jew. They have no children.