GENEVA (AFP) — The embattled head of the United Nations patent organisation, embroiled in allegations of misconduct, will step down a year early, with his successor expected to start after September 2008, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Kamal Idris, head of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), has decided to bring forward by one year the process of nominating and appointing a new director general, spokeswoman Samar Shamoon told AFP.
Idris, a Sudanese national who has headed the UN's only revenue-earning agency for ten years, has been under intense pressure over claims he misrepresented his age when joining the organisation.
He has also faced criticism for alleged poor management.
The Swiss press revealed in February that Idris was born in 1954, not 1945 as he claimed when he first joined the organisation.
He then recognised the "error" in his date of birth in 2006 when he was due to retire and was able to extend his mandate until 2009.
WIPO said after the initial press reports that Idris would suffer a "considerable" cut in his pension as a result of the age change and denied he had been seeking to profit from the error, insisting that such allegations were unfounded.
Western states such as Switzerland and the United States called for his head at WIPO's annual assembly last month and refused to approve the organisation's 2008-2009 budget while Idris remained in charge.
Western countries now hope to quickly resolve the budget issue, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.
US ambassador Warren Tichenor welcomed Idris's decision to step down early as a "positive development."
"We believe that this renewal of leadership will bring new confidence and vitality to the organisation," Tichenor said in a statement.
WIPO has also been criticised for its working culture under Idris's stewardship, with a report by accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers citing high levels of absenteeism, incompetence and inadequate disciplinary measures.
WIPO was set up in 1967 to promote and coordinate the protection of intellectual property throughout the world and to manage international patent application systems.
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