Annan cleared by Iraq oil-for-food inquiry

 

A key inquiry into the oil-for-food program concluded today that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had not interfered in the awarding of a contract in Iraq to a firm that employed his son.

But the report, prepared by a commission headed by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, faulted Mr Annan for an "inadequate" inquiry into his son's employment with the Swiss-based Cotecna firm hired by the United Nations to verify goods coming into Iraq.

Mr Annan has consistently acknowledged that he was not completely candid with his father when the Cotecna-UN contract first attracted publicity in late January 1999
Kojo Annan's lawyer William Taylor

The report accused Mr Annan's son, Kojo, and Cotecna Inspection, of trying to conceal their relationship after the contract was in place. It also criticised the UN chief for not determining the exact nature of his son's relationship with the firm.

Mr Annan said the inquiry had cleared him of wrongdoing. "As I had always hoped and firmly believed, the inquiry has cleared me of any wrongdoing," especially on the key issue of awarding a contract to a firm that employed his son, he said in a statement.

It is unlikely to stop the increasing demand from US congressmen for Mr Annan to resign and although the secretary-general has the support of the vast majority of UN member states, US disapproval will count for a great deal.

The report said "there is no evidence" the selection of Cotecna for an inspection contract "was subject to any affirmative or improper influence of the secretary-general in the bidding or selection process."

Investigators also said "the evidence is not reasonably sufficient" that Mr Annan knew about Cotecna's bid in 1998. The report is the second issued by the Volcker's team of investigators and comes a week after Annan called for the biggest overhaul of the United Nations in its 60 year history.

The report found that Kojo Annan was not forthcoming with either his father or the committee and accused him of consistently trying to hide the nature of his relationship with Cotecna. It said there still were "significant questions" about Kojo Annan's business dealings with respect to the programme, and an investigation was continuing.

In a letter annexed to the report, Kojo Annan's lawyer, William Taylor, rejected any claim that his client had not been wholly co-operative with the committee.

But Mr Taylor admitted that Kojo Annan had not told his father the entire truth.

"Mr Annan has consistently acknowledged that he was not completely candid with his father when the Cotecna-UN contract first attracted publicity in late January 1999," Mr Taylor wrote. "He regrets the embarrassment that omission caused to his father and to the United Nations and accepts responsibility for it."