Former French UN ambassador in custody as part of investigation conserning oil-for-food program in Iraq

France's former U.N. ambassador, Jean-Bernard Merimee, has been taken into custody as part of an investigation into suspected irregularities in the Iraq oil-for-food program, judicial officials said Tuesday.

Merimee, 68, who also was ambassador to Italy from 1995-1998 and to Australia in the 1980s, is suspected of having received oil vouchers from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime.

He was taken into custody on Monday, and is expected to appear Wednesday before the judge leading the probe, the officials said on condition of anonymity because French law does not allow disclosure of information from judicial investigations.

Merimee was France's permanent representative to the U.N. Security Council from 1991-1995.

The French mission to the United Nations said it would cooperate fully with the investigation. A spokesman said the mission's papers from Merimee's time at the U.N. had long since been sent back to the national archives in Paris, and that there had been no request so far to meet with staff in New York. A.M.

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