U.N. hands over documents in oil-for-food probe

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations will give oil-for-food investigators informal notes from meetings about the program, having received no objection from the council's 15 members, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave the council until Tuesday to voice opposition to his plan to turn over the documents.

The Independent Inquiry Committee requested the documents as part of its probe into alleged corruption in the program, under which Iraq received food, medicine and humanitarian goods in ex-change for oil.

The committee collected thousands of documents, but wanted the entire file of notes from closed meetings of the committee that was responsible for overseeing the oil-for-food program, council diplomats said.

Last week, Annan told council diplomats of his intention to turn over the documents, but they refused to act without instructions from their home governments.

They said they were worried about accuracy, sloppy translations and the inclusion of personal opinions in them. There was also a debate over whether the notes belonged to the Secretariat or to the Security Council.

Those fears were allayed and none of the 15 members blocked the move. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations would now work closely with Volcker to make sure he gets all the notes.

The oil-for-food program aimed to help 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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