April 4, 2005: Headlines: Figures: Congress: United Nations: Minneapolis Star Tribune: Norm Coleman: Why I'm standing by my call for Annan to resign

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Norm Coleman: Why I'm standing by my call for Annan to resign

Norm Coleman: Why I'm standing by my call for Annan to resign

Norm Coleman: Why I'm standing by my call for Annan to resign

Norm Coleman: Why I'm standing by my call for Annan to resign
Norm Coleman
April 4, 2005 NCOLEMAN0404

After reading Wednesday's error-ridden and specious editorial, I feel compelled to review the facts behind my call for the resignation of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

For six months, I have insisted that Annan be held accountable for the U.N.'s gross mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food Program. Last week, the U.N.'s own investigators issued a report criticizing Annan's own conduct -- including his failure to resolve a serious conflict of interest concerning his son -- and the conduct of his chief of staff.

The Volcker report did not "exonerate" Annan, as many have claimed; to the contrary, it pointed the finger directly at him. Indeed, one member of Volcker's committee, Mark Pieth, made that point loud and clear: "We did not exonerate Kofi Annan."

With that in mind, I reiterate my call for Annan's resignation.

Let's review the facts: Nearly one year ago, as chairman of the Senate permanent subcommittee on Investigations, I initiated a bipartisan, comprehensive investigation into the Oil-for-Food scandal. Our investigation showed that the U.N. terribly mismanaged the program.

Annan, as the U.N.'s CEO, is ultimately responsible for the organization's performance. My call for Annan's resignation was not, and is not, based on the misconduct of his son; instead, Annan must be held accountable for his failures and his organization's widespread ineptitude. In short, the buck stops with Annan.

Since I called for his resignation, an avalanche of evidence concerning the U.N.'s mismanagement of the program emerged:

• Volcker's investigators exposed the corrupt activities of Benon Sevan, Annan's hand-picked chief of the program. Our subcommittee released evidence showing that Sevan received lucrative oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, including documents from the Iraqi Oil Ministry estimating Sevan's profits at $1.2 million.

• The U.N. investigators also released 58 internal audits that revealed numerous instances of rampant mismanagement by the U.N., exposing a program rife with sloppy stewardship and riddled with "overcharges,"double charge[s]" and other "unjustified" waste of more than $100 million.

• Our subcommittee disclosed overwhelming evidence that a U.N. agent took a bribe of $105,000 to help Saddam cheat the Program.

• The Volcker committee determined that the U.N.'s process for awarding three multi-million-dollar contracts in the program was "tainted."

Last week, the avalanche continued. Specifically, the Volcker report found that the secretary-general failed to adequately investigate or remedy a serious conflict of interest -- namely, that the U.N. had awarded a massive contract to the company that employed Annan's son.

Most disturbing was the Volcker panel's finding concerning Annan's chief of staff, who -- on the day after the Volcker committee was created -- authorized the destruction of three years' worth of documents. This report did not "exonerate" Annan -- rather, it chastises him for yet another serious lapse of management, and identifies more serious misconduct by Annan's hand-picked advisers.

This newspaper, like Volcker's committee, was mistaken when it wrote that "the secretary general is not involved in procurement decisions."

The program's rules clearly obligate the secretary-general to appoint the U.N.'s inspection agents. The agreement between the Secretariat and Iraq states: "The arrival of goods in Iraq purchased under the plan will be confirmed by independent inspection agents to be appointed by the Secretary-General." The rules of the Security Council committee similarly obligate Annan to appoint the inspection agents.

The secretary-general's failings, however, are not limited to past mismanagement. For instance, he has failed to strip Sevan's diplomatic immunity, despite the wealth of evidence establishing Sevan's misconduct. Worse, the U.N. also agreed to reimburse Sevan out of oil revenues from the program for his hefty legal fees resulting from its investigation. That the U.N. would pay for Sevan's defense, when it has found him responsible for unethical misconduct, is beyond comprehension.

Only after an international uproar did the U.N. reverse its decision.

Despite this evidence, this newspaper alleged that my call for Annan's resignation was motivated by some connection with the White House. That claim is patently false. The administration disagrees with my call for Annan's resignation, and offered its support: "We continue to support Secretary-General Annan in his work at the United Nations." While we agree that the U.N. desperately needs reform, we simply disagree on whether Annan is the right person to effect those reforms.

The U.N. is a vital institution for the United States and the world, with the unique ability to lead an international response to global problems like nuclear proliferation, the horrifying spread of HIV-AIDS, economic and political rebuilding in war-torn regions, and worldwide poverty.

Because of its rarefied position, the U.N. must regain its credibility and fulfill its obligations with impeccable integrity.

These are the facts. And those facts point to an inescapable conclusion: For the good of the U.N., Kofi Annan must step aside and a true reformer be appointed. The time for half-measures passed long ago.

Norm Coleman, R-Minn., is a member of the U.S. Senate.

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Story Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; Congress; United Nations



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