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Annan Rejects Calls for Resignation


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is planning to carry on in his job, despite calls by some U.S. lawmakers and news organizations for his resignation. Several world leaders are rallying to the Secretary-General's defense, amid allegations of corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food program.

A day after several Republican members of the U.S. Congress urged him to step down, Secretary-General Annan told a group of reporters he plans to keep on working. "I have quite a lot of work to do and I'm carrying on with my work. We have a major agenda next year, and the year ahead, trying to reform this organization. So we'll carry on," he said.

Mr. Annan has come under fire for a lack of oversight in the U.N.'s scandal-ridden Iraq oil-for-food humanitarian program. The Secretary-General has acknowledged that his son Kojo Annan received monthly payments from a key contractor in the program until this year, long after the program ended.

The controversy has triggered calls by a few U.S. lawmakers and news outlets for the Secretary-General's resignation. The head of a Senate subcommittee investigating the oil-for-food program has accused Mr. Annan of obstructing congressional probes.

But outside the United States, Mr. Annan continues to enjoy strong support. The presidents of France and Spain telephoned Tuesday to say they have confidence in his leadership. The African Union issued a statement of support on behalf of all its members.

A day earlier, British Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly praised Mr. Annan, saying he thinks the public criticism is unfair. Russia and China have also voiced confidence in Mr. Annan's leadership.

In an interview last week, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called Mr. Annan "a good secretary-general". But the Bush administration has declined to join in the chorus of support.

Asked about the U.S. position Tuesday, Ambassador John Danforth drew a distinction between judging Mr. Annan's performance as Secretary-General and prejudging the oil-for-food investigation.

"The only point we've made is that when an investigation is in progress, it's important not to prejudge the result. That is not the same as the issue of the Secretary General. I think Secretary Powell in that respect a couple days ago spoke very clearly of his views of the Secretary General. That's the position of the U.S. government, but it's a different matter from the investigation," he said.

The Secretary-General named former U.S. Central Bank chief Paul Volcker earlier this year to conduct a thorough oil-for-food probe.

Mr. Volcker says he expects to issue a first report on his findings in January. That report will deal exclusively with allegations of corruption among U.N. staff. A second report due later in the year will address broader charges that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein used the humanitarian program to siphon off billions of dollars to buy weapons and influence.

The U.N.-administered program allowed Iraq to sell oil to buy food and other essential supplies while Saddam Hussein's government was under strict Security Council sanctions. It was terminated last year.

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