US fury over 9/11 'cover-up' claims
New York - The United States on Tuesday demanded the sacking of a UN human rights expert for "noxious" comments claiming there had been a US cover-up over the September 11 attacks.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the comments by Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, as "an affront" to the victims of the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, called Falk's views "despicable and deeply offensive" and said she had registered a protest and called for his dismissal.
Falk wrote in his personal blog on January 11 that there are "awkward gaps and contradictions in the official explanations" given for the attacks when hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Centre towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
He said there was "an apparent cover-up" by the US government over its knowledge of the attacks masterminded by Osama bin Laden.
Falk said mainstream US media had been "unwilling to acknowledge the well-evidenced doubts about the official version of the events: an al-Qaeda operation with no foreknowledge by government officials".
The US ambassador said she was "appalled" and joined calls by other groups for his dismissal.
"Mr Falk endorses the slurs of conspiracy theorists who allege that the September 11 2001, terrorist attacks were perpetrated and then covered up by the US government and media," she said in a statement.
"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."
"In my view, 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," Rice said.
"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."
UN officials said that Falk is not appointed by Ban, but by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. The council must decide Falk's future, they said.
Speaking in Geneva, the UN leader expressed shock over the comments in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council.
"I want to tell you clearly and directly. I condemn this sort of inflammatory rhetoric. It is preposterous - an affront to the memory of the more than 3 000 people who died in that tragic attack," Ban said.
The US ambassador said the United States had already criticised what she called "Mr Falk's one-sided and politicised approach to his work for the UN, including his failure to condemn deliberate human rights abuses by Hamas, but these blog comments are in another category altogether.
"I would note that US and many other diplomats walked out in protest in September 2010 when Iranian President Ahmadinejad made similarly slanderous remarks before the UN General Assembly."
The Iranian leader also appeared to cast doubt on the causes of the September 11 attacks in his speech to the General Assembly last year.