Oil/food probe to ask more of Annan

The Washington Times
January 26, 2005

New York: Investigators probing charges of impropriety in the U.N. oil-for-food program have questioned Secretary-General Kofi Annan about his involvement and will do so again, a U.N. spokesman said yesterday.

Mr. Annan met “more than once for an extended period of time” with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and his investigators last year, spokesman Fred Eckhard said. He said he thought there were two meetings, but he was not sure.

“The secretary-general is part of the investigation, is a subject like anyone else involved in oil-for-food at the secretariat,” Mr. Eckhard said. Investigators are probing charges that administrators at the U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq took bribes and allowed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to skim money from the program.

Launched in December 1996, the program allowed Saddam’s regime to l unlimited quantities of oil provided the money went primarily to buy food, medicine and humanitarian goods for Iraqis and pay reparations to victims of the 1991 Gulf War.

A report in October by top U.S. arms inspector Charles Duelfer said Saddam was able to “subvert” the $60 billion program to generate an estimated $1.7 billion in revenue outside U.N. control from 1997 to 2003.

Saddam also raked in more than $8 billion from illicit oil deals with Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, U.S. congressional investigators said.

The Duelfer report says Saddam issued secret vouchers for the purchase of Iraqi oil to U.N. officials and an array of officials and political figures from various countries – especially France, Russia and China – reportedly to curry favor with key Security Council members. That oil could then be resold at a profit.

At least five U.S. congressional probes have been launched into the scandal, which has been a major blow to the United Nations and has led some to call for Mr. Annan’s resignation.

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