Just two days after insisting that he would stay in his post, Lubbers released a letter of resignation that he sent to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan after meeting him in New York on Friday to discuss the affair.

Annan, who had said the case was not strong enough when the allegations first surfaced last year, appeared to change his mind after details were published in the British daily The Independent on Friday.

Although Lubbers, who has always proclaimed his innocence, came out of the meeting saying that he would continue, Annan's office implied there was a doubt by saying that the discussions had focused on Lubbers' future in the organisation.

Insult to injury

In his letter, Lubbers suggested it was Annan's apparent change of mind that had forced him to stand down, adding that the way the matter had been handled added insult to injury.

"To be frank, and despite all my loyalty, insult has been added to injury and therefore I resign as High Commissioner," Lubbers wrote.

Lubbers said he was insulted by
Annan's handling of the issue

Last summer the organization's watchdog, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, said allegations against Lubbers by four women in the UNHCR constituted a prime facia case and recommended "appropriate actions".

But Annan rejected the report. His spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said Annan "did not say there was no evidence" but that "he found the allegations unsustainable on a legal basis".

Further details of the OIOS report published by the Independent newspaper, included unnamed women in the UNHCR describing Lubbers' gestures as far from innocent. Some women refused to file complaints, fearing reprisals, the report said.