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November 18, 2005
Senior French Aide To Annan Confesses Saddam Bribery

The London Telegraph reports this morning that a senior French diplomat has confessed to accepting money from Saddam Hussein in exchange for his access to and influence with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The former UN ambassador for France claims that the allocations given to him through Tariq Aziz came in recognition of his "work for the Iraqi people", but nonetheless acknowledges its illegality:

One of France's most distinguished diplomats has confessed to an investigating judge that he accepted oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, it emerged yesterday.

Jean-Bernard Mrime is thought to be the first senior figure to admit his role in the oil-for-food scandal, a United Nations humanitarian aid scheme hijacked by Saddam to buy influence.

The Frenchman, who holds the title "ambassador for life", told authorities that he regretted taking payments amounting to $156,000 (then worth about 108,000) in 2002.

The money was used to renovate a holiday home he owned in southern Morocco. At the time, Mr Mrime was a special adviser to Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general.

This provides one of the most direct links between the corruption in the Oil-For-Food program and the Secretary himself. His own aide -- someone outside the OFF structure -- took bribes and kickbacks during a period when M. Mrime held a unique position that could assist Iraq in pushing the UN delicately on any number of issues. It shows that Saddam Hussein not only had corrupted the UN to the point where he could use the humanitarian aid program as his own personal ATM (low-end estimates show at least $1.5 billion going into his pockets), but with Mrime on the payroll, influencing the direction of the UN itself.

Why didn't this make the American media today? The last we heard of M. Mrime, the French had detained him briefly for questioning on OFF. Now that he's confessed, a large piece of the twelve-year Iraqi quagmire at the UN is now clear. It sheds light not just on the corruption at Turtle Bay but a major reason for twelve years of inaction on Iraq's consistent defiance of UN resolutions, and the UN's curious lack of effort in enforcing them. It would explain why the US and UK alone on the Security Council finally had to take action to hold Saddam accountable for his intransigence.

And yet the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and every other outlet seems to have missed this story, according to this Google search.

After the details do emerge, we will want a full reckoning from Annan on his administration of the UN. Perhaps we might actually get his resignation, the only honorable way out for the massively incompetent Secretary-General who has led the UN to its worst period of disgrace. Given his track record, though, it will take the General Assembly to kick him out -- and given their track record, they will uphold their dishonorable reputation as a den of thieves instead.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 18, 2005 7:25 AM

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