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09 December 2004

Amb. Danforth Affirms U.S. Confidence in United Nations' Annan

Envoy says secretary-general is "doing a good job"

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Ambassador John Danforth stepped forward to express U.S. support for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the wake of criticism and calls by some U.S. legislators for the U.N. leader's resignation over the Iraqi Oil-for-Food Program investigations.

At a news conference December 9, Danforth, the chief U.S. envoy to the United Nations, said that "our view of the performance of the secretary general is that he has done a good job, that he is doing a good job, that we have worked with him, and we anticipate working with him in the future."

"There is no question that we have heard raised by anybody as to the personal integrity of the secretary general," the ambassador said. "We are expressing confidence in the secretary general and in his continuing in office."

"No one to my knowledge has cast doubt on the personal integrity of the secretary general. No one. And we certainly don't," he said.

Danforth said that he was speaking for the White House and State Department.

The controversy arose over the refusal of Secretary-General Annan and Paul Volcker, the chairman of the independent Oil-for-Food investigation, to turn over documents and materials to U.S. congressional committees until the U.N. inquiry into allegations of bribery, mismanagement and the skimming of Iraqi oil funds is completed. The congressional committees are also conducting their own investigations into the matter. In addition, Annan's son briefly worked for a company that received a contract from the United Nations to inspect the Oil-for-Food shipments.

In April, Annan appointed a three-member panel headed by Volcker, a former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman, to investigate allegations of mismanagement in the now-defunct Oil-for-Food Program established to use Iraqi oil proceeds to pay for humanitarian goods for Iraqi civilians while U.N. sanctions were in place.

Among other things, the panel has the authority to investigate whether the procedures established by the United Nations for the administration and management of the Oil-for-Food Program were violated and to determine whether any U.N. officials, personnel, agents or contractors engaged in any illicit or corrupt activities while on the job.

Danforth said the Bush administration feels that "the investigation is critically important."

The ambassador said that he was moved to come forward with the expression of U.S. support for Annan after the news media and U.N. colleagues interpreted U.S. statements expressing the desire for "an objective and thorough investigation" as not supportive of the secretary-general, and suggested that it "appeared as though what the U.S. really wants to do is to force" Annan's resignation.

"I probably was not good enough at recognizing" that the U.S. statements would be misinterpreted, Danforth said.

"It is important for the U.S. to clarify its position," Danforth said. "We are not suggesting the resignation or pushing for the resignation of the secretary-general. We have worked with him very well in the past. We anticipate working with him very well in the future."

Danforth also said that the Volcker inquiry is the "primary investigation." Nevertheless, he added that "Congress certainly has every right to be engaged in this and there should be cooperation."

"There is a cloud over the United Nations," the ambassador said. "All the information that should be turned over must be turned over. The worst thing to continue the cloud over an organization is to give the impression that something is being hidden or that there is not total cooperation," he said.

Calling the inquiry "essentially a criminal investigation," Danforth said that "the heart of the investigation has to be investigation into the alleged wrongdoing: Was there fraud? Was there bribery? Were there payoffs, if so, who got what from whom?"

"That factual investigation has to go forward in a very comprehensive fashion," he said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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