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Security Council Backs  Annan's Plan for Investigation of  Iraq Oil-for-Food Program - 2004-04-01

The United Nations Security Council announced Wednesday its support of an independent probe into allegations of corruption in the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program in Iraq.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told council members last week that he was establishing a panel to look into possible wrongdoing by U.N. officials who ran the Iraqi Oil-for-Food Program.

In a letter, Mr. Annan asked the council to cooperate with the investigation of companies worldwide with contracts to sell humanitarian supplies to Iraq in exchange for oil from 1996 until the program was dismantled last year.

Now, the president of the Security Council during the month of March, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, has announced that the council has expressed its unanimous support for the inquiry in a letter to Mr. Annan. "We support fully the secretary-general's initiative to establish an inquiry and we stand ready to cooperate with it," he said.

Mr. de La Sabliere said the council also called on other United Nations member states to work with the high-level independent inquiry.

The multi-billion dollar Oil-for-Food Program was established to provide humanitarian supplies and ease the burden of U.N. imposed sanctions on Iraqi civilians. In January, an Iraqi newspaper published a list of more than 250 firms and individuals it said were suspected of illegally profiting from the program.

The U.S. General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, is also looking into alleged irregularities and the smuggling of billions of dollars in oil by Iraqi elites and the deposed Saddam Hussein's government.