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Under-fire UN chief deserves fair treatment
Hu XuanChina Daily  Updated: 2004-12-07 09:16

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan has become the target of escalating attacks in the United States over suspected corruption in the body's now-defunct oil-for-food humanitarian programme for Iraq.

Several US newspapers have called for Annan to be replaced over the oil-for-food allegations, with Senator Norm Coleman's demand for the secretary-general to resign hitting the headlines earlier last week.

Coleman, a Minnesota Republican who is leading one of five US congressional investigations into the accusations, wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that Annan should resign because "the most extensive fraud in the history of the UN occurred on his watch."

Meanwhile, the UN has appointed former US Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker to head an independent inquiry into the oil-for-food programme, handing over all UN documents and ordering its officials to co-operate.

The US$64 billion oil-for-food programme began in 1996, administered by the UN and supervised by the 15-nation Security Council. It was meant to ease the impact of sanctions on ordinary Iraqis during Saddam Hussein's rule of the country.

Volcker's panel will release a preliminary report in January and a definitive report by the middle of next year.

There is an attempt by some US politicians to discredit the UN chief.

The United States is currently at odds with many UN member states over Annan.

The European Union, the 54 African nations and many other countries have expressed support for the secretary-general in the face of calls for him to go.

Washington should also not forget that it is a permanent member of the same UN Security Council that authorized the programme and the sanctions committee that monitored it.

There is no doubt that there should be a thorough, comprehensive and objective investigation of these corruption allegations.

But it is obviously too early to rush to any conclusions until all the facts are in.

Notably, all of the investigations are so far on the oil-for-food programme.

To cite a lack of UN supervision of the programme as grounds for Annan to quit is thus simply prejudging the outcome of the inquiry.

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