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Iraqi Records of U.N. Aid Program Frozen

March 21, 2004|From Associated Press

KUWAIT CITY — U.S. administrators in Iraq have frozen records of a U.N. aid program to help investigators looking into possible corruption during the regime of Saddam Hussein, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Saturday during a stopover in Kuwait.

U.S. congressional investigators have charged that Hussein's regime amassed $10 billion through oil smuggling, illegal surcharges and kickbacks from the United Nations' "oil-for-food" program between 1996 and 2002.

An Iraqi newspaper has published a list of about 270 former Cabinet officials, legislators, political activists and journalists in about 46 countries suspected of profiting from the scam.

"We are concerned, deeply concerned, that money that was supposed to be going to help the Iraqi people was diverted by Saddam Hussein, once again demonstrating the nature of that regime," Powell told reporters.

"That money was not used for food or healthcare or clean water. It was used for palaces and debauchery."

Powell said Washington would assist the investigation that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed Friday.

The program, which ended in November, was set up by the U.N. Security Council; it allowed the Hussein regime to sell oil and use the proceeds to buy humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people and pay reparations for the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Powell spoke at the end of his six-day tour of Asian and Middle East nations. He said that after the U.S.-led coalition hands power to Iraqis on June 30, Iraqi and coalition forces will be able to defeat the insurgents and "terrorists from outside the country."

"But while they are still around," he said, "they are causing considerable trouble."

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