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Ex-French Envoy Is Held in U.N. Graft Probe

October 12, 2005|From Associated Press

PARIS — France's former United Nations ambassador has been taken into custody amid an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in the Iraq oil-for-food program, judicial officials said Tuesday.

Jean-Bernard Merimee, 68, who also was ambassador to Italy from 1995 to 1998 and to Australia in the 1980s, is suspected of receiving kickbacks in the form of oil allocations from the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Merimee was France's representative to the U.N. from 1991 to 1995. He was also a special advisor to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan from 1999 to 2002.

Merimee was taken into custody Monday and is expected to be presented Wednesday to the judge leading the inquiry, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because French law does not allow the disclosure of information from judicial investigations.

The oil-for-food program was established in 1996 to provide food, medical supplies and other humanitarian goods for millions of Iraqis trying to cope with U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The program ended with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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