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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

31 March 2004

Security Council Backs Oil-For-Food Probe

Gives secretary-general approval to begin corruption investigation

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The Security Council March 31 gave its approval to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan for an extensive independent investigation into allegations of corruption in the U.N.-administered Oil-for-Food Program.

The Security Council sent a letter to Annan signaling its approval of his decision and his outline for the conduct of the investigation by an outside, high-level panel.

Council President Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere of France said that council members "supported unanimously" the secretary-general's initiative.

Council members "took note of the details relating to its organization and terms of reference aimed at promoting the maximum degree of transparency, effectiveness, and independence in examining the conduct of the organization, contractors, and other entities involved in the administration and implementation of the program," de La Sabliere said, quoting from the letter.

"The Council members expressed their readiness to cooperate with the inquiry accordingly, and called upon other member states to act likewise," the letter said.

Earlier in the month the secretary-general outlined the terms of reference for the inquiry, saying that he intended to ask the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to end the inquiry it started recently and turn over its documents and other materials to the new panel. Annan also said he wanted to launch a broad investigation of the program that went beyond U.N. personnel to look closely at the conduct of corporations, contractors, and other agents not employed by the United Nations. Therefore, he sought the cooperation of the Security Council.

The secretary-general is expected to name the members of inquiry panel in early April. The panel is directed to report in three months.

The investigation is the result of allegations by news media of fraud and corruption in the administration and management of the program, including overpricing and the payment of kickbacks to U.N. officials and high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein's regime in order to secure contracts.

The Oil-for-Food Program, established in 1996, was designed to alleviate civilian suffering under the sanctions regime by allowing Iraq easier access to food and other humanitarian supplies. It ended in November 2003 with the remaining funds being put into the Development Fund for Iraq, administered by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and Iraqi officials. During its operation, the Oil-for-Food Program handled more than $46 billion.

(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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