UN awaiting reply from Governing Council on OilforFood probe spokesman

With Secretary-General Kofi Annan set to appoint an independent panel this week to look into allegations of corruption within the United Nations Oil-for-Food humanitarian operation for Iraq, the country’s Governing Council still has not replied to Mr. Annan’s request for help in investigating the charges, a UN spokesman said today.The UN’s in-house watchdog – the Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) – has written the Governing Council twice, on 6 February and 11 March, asking for cooperation, spokesman Fred Eckhard said in answer to press questions in New York. The United Nations did not know why it had not yet received a response.He noted that OIOS has received a letter from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), signed by Administrator L. Paul Bremer, promising support to the Office and that the UN’s auditing branch was satisfied by the response.Yesterday Mr. Eckhard announced that Mr. Annan expected to communicate to the Security Council the details of the panel’s terms of reference and the names of its members.Asked today whether the Secretary-General would need a response from the Council, the spokesman said Mr. Annan did not feel that there needed to be a Council resolution, but there could be a statement or letter in response.”The whole point of this consultation with Council members over the last two weeks was to convince them of the need for such an independent investigation in the hopes that he would get their support,” Mr. Eckhard said. “Without government support this investigation is not going to go very far, so he is hoping for some kind of signal from the Council that they support this effort.”Responding to a question about the growing number of UN and outside investigations into the allegations, Mr. Eckhard said the United Nations would only have one probe, with OIOS turning over to the panel whatever evidence it has gathered.”The Secretary-General has been working for several weeks to get this broader investigation going. I think he would welcome any additional light that others could shed on the situation, either out of Baghdad or out a national capital,” the spokesman said. “But I think he feels it’s his responsibility to launch a UN-based investigation of this UN programme.”

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