Annan reiterates he won’t resign

Associated Press
The Guardian (UK)
December 21, 2004

Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated Tuesday he has no intention of resigning over allegations of corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program and plans to move ahead with sweeping changes at the United Nations.

He told a year-end news conference the oil-for-food allegations “have cast a shadow over an operation that brought relief to millions of Iraqis” and expressed hope that an investigation led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker would “find out the truth as quickly as possible.”

The oil-for-food program permitted Iraq under Saddam Hussein to sell oil – despite an economic embargo – provided that the proceeds were used for food and medicine for the hard-pressed Iraqi people.

Addressing questions about calls for his resignation in Congress, Annan said, “I have the confidence of member states” and will move ahead with preparations for a summit in September 2005 where world leaders will consider major U.N. reforms to address global security threats.

Nonetheless, the secretary-general said, “I’m relieved this annus horribilis has come to an end,” using the Latin words for a “horrible year.” He used the same term that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II did in describing the troubles the royal family suffered in 1992.

Annan disclosed that Volcker’s first report in January would be accompanied by reports of U.N. internal audits of the oil-for-food program, which have sought by congressional investigators also looking into the corruption allegations.

“I see important openings for peace,” Annan said, but he added that continuing violence in Iraq could influence voter turnout in the Jan. 30 election.

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