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U.N. Panel to Discuss Iraq Inquiry

August 07, 2004|From Reuters

UNITED NATIONS — An independent inquiry into corruption in the now-defunct U.N. "oil-for-food" program in Iraq is underway but has not reached conclusions on any wrongdoing, U.N. and investigative officials said Friday.

Paul Volcker, the former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman who heads the three-member investigative panel, presented his first report on its activities to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and plans to discuss it at a news conference Monday, spokeswoman Anna Di Lellio said.

"Mr. Volcker will describe the initiation of the investigation at Monday's news conference. But no investigative findings will be announced," Di Lellio said.

The other panel members are Judge Richard Goldstone, who served as the first prosecutor on the United Nations' Balkan war crimes tribunal, and Swiss lawyer Mark Pieth, an expert on international bribery and money laundering.

U.N. officials said Annan planned within days to give the report to the Security Council, which created the $67-billion humanitarian aid plan to ease the effect on ordinary Iraqis of strict U.N. sanctions imposed on Baghdad after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The program, which was established in 1996 and lasted until 2003, allowed Iraq to sell oil and buy food, medical supplies and other nonmilitary goods under U.N. supervision.

But after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime last year, documents surfaced that appeared to show the program was rife with bribery, kickbacks and other corrupt practices.

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