Annan calls for Iraq UN probe

In the letter to the 15-nation council, he said the inquiry would need the council’s backing and he will send a more detailed proposal most likely next week.

The UN has already begun its own internal investigation.

The oil-for-food program was set up to allow Saddam’s regime to use money from oil sales to buy essential supplies for Iraqis to help ease the hardship caused by sanctions slapped on Baghdad before the 1991 Gulf War.

It is credited with keeping six out of 10 Iraqis alive during the last years of Saddam’s rule.

But Iraqi and US officials are now looking into allegations that bribes to foreign officials and companies were common, and that billions of dollars were skimmed off the top by regime cronies.

“These allegations, whether or not they are ultimately shown to be well-founded, must be taken seriously and addressed forthrightly, in order to bring to light the truth and prevent an erosion of the trust and hope that the international community has invested in the organisation,” said Mr Annan’s document.

“I proposed to establish an independent, high-level inquiry to investigate the allegations relating to the administration and management of the program, including allegations of fraud and corruption.”

Mr Annan said earlier on Friday that it is “highly possible” that there was widespread wrongdoing in the UN-run program, which supervised Iraqi oil sales under Saddam.

The oil-for-food program began and December 1996 and ended last November, was the UN’s largest ever aid program, and oversaw tens of billions of dollars in transactions.

Benon Sevan, the UN official who ran it, has denied any improper behaviour.

In January, an Iraqi newspaper alleged that individuals and organisations from more than 40 countries had received vouchers for cut-price oil from the Iraqi regime.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation