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May 2, 2004
Kofi Annan Fumbles on OFF on Meet the Press

Kofi Annan appeared today on Meet the Press and wilted under Tim Russert's questioning on the Oil-For-Food program. The transcript tells the story:

MR. RUSSERT: Someone also very close to you has alleged involvement in this scandal. This is how The San Diego Union Tribune wrote about it. "What particularly troubles are revelations that several hundred individuals, political entities and companies from more than 45 countries profited from doing illicit business with Saddam, accepting his oil contracts and paying the murderous dictator secret kick-backs. That included, according to Iraqi Oil Minister records, U.N. Assistant Secretary General Benon Sevan, executive director of the oil-for-food program, who received a vouch for 11.5 million barrels of oil through the program, enough to turn a profit as much as $3.5 million."

Now, Mr. Sevan has denied that allegation.

SEC'Y-GEN. ANNAN: Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT: But NBC News has obtained this letter that was sent on his stationery on April 14. This is just two weeks ago. "I refer to your e-mail ... regarding a request by `a Governmental Authority' for reports ... relating to the Oil-for-Food Programme. ... While we understand Saybolt's"--that's a company--"desire to be cooperative with bodies looking into the Programme ... we would ask that Saybolt address any further requests for documentation or information concerning these matters to us ..."

So Mr. Sevan, who's being investigated, is telling a company that's also being investigated, "Don't cooperate with government authorities unless you clear it with me." Why is he still involved in the investigation?

SEC'Y-GEN. ANNAN: Right. No, I wasn't aware of this confess for--Benon has worked with the U.N. for several decades, and I will be surprised if he's guilty of these accusations.

I suspect that what escapes Annan's awareness about UNSCAM could fill volumes. Annan's lack of awareness of Sevan's correspondence -- which should have been available to Annan, had he bothered to check -- has not kept Annan from loudly announcing Sevan's innocence of corruption allegations and labeling them as politically motivated. Russert also managed to note Annan's lack of awareness on the OFF office failing to turn over crucial contracts and other documentatiuon to the CPA, as ordered by the UNSC:

MR. RUSSERT: The U.S. Government Accounting Office, the GAO, testified before Congress on Wednesday and said this: that "U.N. Resolution 1483 requested the Secretary transfer to the"--"[Coalition Provisional Authority]"--in Iraq--"all relevant documentation."

And that only 20 percent of the contracts had been transferred to them. Why?

SEC'Y-GEN. ANNAN: First of all, let me say that the GAO, in preparation of this report, had very solid support from the United Nations. We cooperated with them very effectively. I do not know what percentage of documentation we gave them, but we've been quite open with our documentation. In fact, after the war, since the ministries were destroyed, we sent copies of all these documents to the Iraqi Governing Council. And so I cannot get--I don't have the details of what the GAO is talking about. But we are open. We are transparent. Of course, as of now, all these documents are transferred to the group headed by Mr. Volker. And therefore we--to protect the integrity of it and any request for future documentation will have to go to him for them to decide whether they release it or not or it will impede their own investigation.

So on one hand, Annan says the OFF office gave the CPA all relevant documentation, while almost in the same breath he says that they gave it to the IGC -- and then says he's giving it to Paul Volcker's investigation ... all the while admitting that he doesn't know what "percentage" of documentation was actually transmitted.

John Kerry wants to entrust American security to the organization that Annan leads, while Annan continually demonstrates the UN's lack of fitness to even run its humanitarian programs. Kerry better hope that Annan stays off the television for the next six months and that Volcker takes a very long time in investigating UNSCAM, because a few more appearances like this will convince Americans to not only discount UN assistance in Iraq but to question our continued membership in the organization itself. Even if it isn't corrupt from head to toe, as UNSCAM revelations make more and more evident, it clearly lacks any sort of managerial competency.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 2, 2004 12:22 PM

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The United Nations has threatened to fire two officials who wrote an expose of sleaze and corruption during its peacekeeping missions of the 1990s. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, is understood to have favoured an attempt to block publication of... [Read More]

Tracked on May 2, 2004 4:42 PM

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