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Oil-For-Food Report

The Independent Inquiry Committee investigating the United Nations Oil-for-Food program has issued its fourth report. The Committee found evidence of both mismanagement and corruption in the program.

The Oil-for-Food program was started in 1996 to ease the burden on ordinary Iraqis of the economic sanctions imposed when Saddam Hussein defied U-N Security Council resolutions intended to prevent Iraq from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The program provided Iraq with the opportunity to sell oil and use the revenues to buy food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods.

Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker headed the independent investigation. He said that weaknesses in the administration of the program allowed former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to turn the program to his advantage. "Reports of waste, inefficiency and corruption, some exaggerated, some true, became increasingly common," said Mr. Volcker. "There was large-scale smuggling," he said. "There were illicit financial gains to Iraq. There was clear abuse of administrative rules. . . .And all of that has undermined confidence in the U-N. It's ability to respond to challenges trust upon it in the future," said Mr. Volcker, "has been undermined."

Among those cited in the new Independent Inquiry Committee report is Benon Sevan, former executive director of the U-N Office of the Iraq Program. The report says Mr. Sevan "corruptly benefited" from his role. Alexander Yakovlev, a procurement officer, was accused of soliciting bribes.

"There are hard lessons for all of us to learn," said U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "They are lessons about the importance of accountability," he said, "and particularly of having clear lines of responsibility and reporting so that all officials, and all parts of [the U-N] Secretariat, know exactly where their responsibilities lie."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said the U-N should also take a closer look at the activities of some governments:

"There were bribes. There were kickbacks. There was lax oversight from the Secretariat, and some member states turned a blind eye toward this corruption."

"This report unambiguously rejects the notion that business as usual at the United Nations is acceptable," said Mr. Bolton. "We need to reform the U-N," he said. "The credibility of the United Nations depends on it."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.