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UN Secretary General Annan cleared of influencing oil-for-food contracts by Volcker report

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has been cleared of wrongdoing in an investigation of charges that he influenced the UN to award aid-screening contracts in Iraq to Swiss company Cotecna Inspection Services, which employed his son Kojo Annan. The investigation was led by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who said that the investigation initiated by Kofi Annan should instead have been referred to UN's independent watchdog agency. The report issued was called by the secretary general a "second interim report" in his statement reported in the New Zealand Herald. The commission will issue its final report in the northern hemisphere summer of 2005.

While Kofi Annan was exonerated, two of his staff members, Iqbal Riza and Dileep Nair, were criticized by the report. Riza allegedly shredded documents related to the contracts under investigation after the secretary general ordered that they be retained. The New York Times said that Nair was "faulted for appointing a person to a high-level post with oil-for-food responsibilities who did almost no work on the program".

According to the New York Times, the Secretary General said "I am deeply saddened by the evidence to the contrary that has emerged, and particularly by the fact that my son had failed to cooperate fully with the inquiry". The Guardian reports that Annan's son concealed from his father the fact that Cotecna continued to pay him for 6 years after "he left Cotecna in 1998". It was not clear from the Guardian report why Cotecna was paying Kojo Annan if he had indeed left the company.

Asked whether he planned to step down as Secretary General, as called for by US Republican Senator Norm Coleman, among others, Kofi Annan responded, "Hell, no!" according to Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian, as well as an unattributed Sydney Morning Herald article. Senator Coleman continued to press forward with his criticism of Annan and calls for his resignation despite the report's findings.

Sources