E-mail proves the communication between Kofi Annan and Cotecna officials

Investigators probing the United Nations' oil-for-food program said Tuesday they are reviewing an e-mail that suggests a communication between Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the company that won a &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/society/2001/11/22/21619.html ' target=_blank>lucrative contract and employed his son.

Spokesmen for Annan and the Swiss company Cotecna were quick to discount the document's significance.

The one-page e-mail was written by a Cotecna vice president in 1998 just before the firm won what became a $10 million-a-year deal to authenticate shipments of food, medicine and supplies entering Iraq, reports CNN News.

One e-mail described an encounter between Annan and officials from Cotecna Inspection S.A. in late 1998 during which the Swiss company's bid for the contract was raised. The second from the same Cotecna executive expressed his confidence that the company would get the bid because of "effective but quiet lobbying" in New York diplomatic circles.

If accurate, the new details would cast doubt on a major finding the U.N.-backed Independent Inquiry Committee made in March _ that there wasn't enough evidence to show that Annan knew about efforts by Cotecna, which employed his son Kojo, to win the Iraq &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2005/05/17/59797.html ' target=_blank>oil-for-food contract. The Associated Press obtained the e-mails Tuesday.

Through his spokesman, Annan said he didn't remember the late 1998 meeting. He repeatedly has insisted that he didn't know Cotecna was pursuing a contract with the oil-for-food program.

The $64 billion oil-for-food program was aimed at helping ordinary Iraqis suffering under U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, but it has become the target of several corruption investigations since the Iraqi leader was ousted.

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