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Annan Expects "Harsh Judgments" From Oil-For-Food Panel

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he expects harsh judgments from the Volcker Commission investigating the Iraq oil-for-food program. The commission's initial report will be released later Thursday.

As he returned from a trip to Africa Wednesday, Secretary-General Annan told reporters the Volcker Commission report detailing U.N. mismanagement of the oil-for-food program will be sharply critical.

"Obviously there will be some harsh judgments on some of the things that we have done in this organization, but I don't know exactly what is going to be said," said Mr. Annan.

Secretary-General Annan named former U.S. central bank chief Paul Volcker last April to investigate U.N. administration of the scandal-plagued oil-for-food program. A briefing paper the commission published last month painted a picture of gross mismanagement.

On the eve of the release of the commission's first report, Mr. Annan pledged to take prompt action on to adopt recommendations on better accountability and transparency. He suggested some senior staff members might be fired, but denied reports that there would be a wholesale staff shakeup.

"I know most of you are interested in shakeup of senior staff; there's not going to be any blood on the floor,” he said. “There will be changes, but it will be done in a civilized way."

Senior U.N. diplomats say Mr. Annan is likely to unveil an internal reform plan in a speech next week at a security conference in Germany.

The U.N. Security Council created the oil-for-food program in 1996 to allow Saddam Hussein's Iraq to buy food and medicines that were in short supply because of international sanctions.

Internal U.N. audits indicate the program was so badly managed that Saddam's regime was able to skim off at least one-point-seven billion dollars in illegal revenue outside U.N. control.