Russia satisfied that Annan cleared in oil-for-food probe

Russia on Wednesday welcomed the outcome of an investigation into the U.N. oil-for-food program that found Secretary-General Kofi Annan did not influence the awarding of a contract to a company that employed his son.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said Moscow had noted the investigators' main conclusion that Annan had not been involved in "abuses" within the framework of the oil-for-food program for Iraq.

"From the very beginning of the investigation, we talked about unacceptability of politicizing this question and using it to undermine the positions of the U.N secretary-general and the organization as a whole," he told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The investigation found no evidence that Kofi Annan improperly influenced the process by which Swiss firm Cotecna Inspection S.A. - which employed his son Kojo - was selected for a contract to certify the import of goods under the oil-for-food program.

The investigation did, however, criticize the U.N. chief for not properly investigating possible conflicts of interest.

It clearly faulted the secretary-general's management of the United Nations and his oversight of the scandal-ridden oil-for-food program, which allowed Saddam Hussein's government to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods as an exemption from U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Investigations have found that Saddam manipulated the program to obtain illegal revenues and try to influence officials and political figures in foreign countries, particularly those with veto power in the U.N. Security Council, such as Russia - which was a major participant both in selling Iraqi oil and delivering goods to Iraq under the program.

A report last year by top U.S. arms inspector Charles Duelfer alleged that Saddam had issued secret vouchers for the purchase of oil to various officials and political figures from permanent Security Council members Russia, France and China, among other countries.

Last November, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Russia could not provide information on alleged kickbacks received by Russian companies and officials because the U.N. inspectors had failed to present any specific facts.

Fedotov said Wednesday that Moscow was ready to cooperate further with the investigation if asked to.

"The Russian side has shown readiness to answer questions that interest the commission members. If new contacts are needed in the future, we are ready for them," he said.

Associated Press

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