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Bush Administration Gives Lukewarm Endorsement to Annan Following Oil-For-Food Report

The United States has expressed confidence in U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's commitment to reform in the wake of damaging revelations concerning the Iraq oil-for-food program. But a prominent U.S. senator has renewed his call for the secretary-general's resignation.

Asked Friday whether she still has confidence in Mr. Annan following the latest oil-for-food report, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of the need for reform.

"We believe that we will continue to work with the secretary-general and we are confident that he will support the kinds of reforms that are needed to try and make sure that this sort of thing does not happen again," she said.

Secretary Rice's less-than-ringing endorsement came as a prominent Senate critic reiterated his call for the secretary-general's resignation. Republican Senator Norm Coleman first urged Mr. Annan to step aside after the investigations committee he heads turned up evidence that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had manipulated the humanitarian oil-for-food operation to pocket more than $10 billion in illicit profits.

Speaking to reporters Friday after a series of discussions with the U.N. diplomats, Senator Coleman said while Mr. Annan appears to be a good man, he should step down in the best interests of the institution. "I have no personal animosity toward Kofi Annan, I don't have any indication that he personally benefited from oil for food. I don't have any indication he was corrupt. I've never alleged that. My sense is actually he's a good man, an incompetent administrator, a poor leader in terms of overseeing a program that had the largest fraud in the history maybe of the world took place. And so do I believe the secretary general has done some good things, absolutely, what I don't believe is that he has the strength, the ability to life up and move the reforms forward," he said.

Senator Coleman told reporters several questions remain unanswered about the extent of the oil-for-food program, and said he plans to call chief investigator Paul Volcker to testify before his Senate subcommittee.

Mr. Volcker issued a comprehensive one-thousand page report on the failings of the humanitarian program Wednesday, but plans a final report next month documenting what he has termed "wholesale corruption" among private companies manipulated by Saddam Hussein's government.