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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Report in Oil-for-Food Probe Expected in '05

August 10, 2004|From Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — The panel investigating allegations of corruption in Iraq's oil-for-food program hopes to report on accusations of U.N. involvement by mid-2005, chairman Paul Volcker said Monday.

At a news conference releasing the committee's first quarterly report, the former Federal Reserve chairman said he didn't know how long it would take to complete all aspects of the investigation, which he estimated would cost at least $30 million over the next year.

The committee's report states that "the allegations of misconduct and maladministration are serious." Volcker refused to speculate on what the investigation might find.

"If you really wanted to wrap this up, in the sense of chasing down every contractor involved here and what happened to the money, I think we'd be here until the next century," he said. "Obviously, we want to investigate enough of these cases to have an understanding, as best we can, of what happened."

The oil-for-food program, which began in December 1996 and ended in November, was launched by the U.N. Security Council to help Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions.

Saddam Hussein's regime was allowed to sell unlimited quantities of oil provided the money was used primarily to buy humanitarian goods and pay reparations to victims of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Hussein's government decided the goods it wanted, who would provide them and who could buy Iraqi oil, but the Security Council committee overseeing sanctions monitored the contracts.

Volcker said there was a massive amount of documentation to examine in the United Nations -- "10,000 boxes ... with millions of pages" -- as well as critical material in Iraq and thousands of contracts.

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