31 March 2004 - The Security Council today gave its backing to an independent probe ordered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to look into allegations of corruption within the United Nations Oil-for-Food humanitarian programme in Iraq.
The Council's President for this month, Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France, told reporters that Council members have agreed to the wording of a letter to be transmitted to the Secretary-General in which they "support unanimously" his initiative to set up an independent, high-level inquiry to investigate the administration, management and implementation of the Oil-for-Food programme, including allegations of fraud and corruption.
Quoting from the letter, Ambassador de La Sablière said Council members "took note of the details relating to its organization and terms of reference aimed at promoting the maximum degree of transparency, effectiveness and independence in examining the conduct of the Organization, contractors and other entities involved in the administration and implementation of the programme."
The members also "expressed their readiness to cooperate with the inquiry accordingly, and called upon other States to act likewise," he added, and they looked forward to receiving the inquiry's final report.
Mr. Annan gave the Council details of the panel's workings last week, and is expected to name the panel members this week. Starting in 1996, the Oil-for-Food programme allowed the sanctions-bound Iraqi Government to sell oil for food and other humanitarian supplies, and at $46 billion, was the largest-ever UN aid operation in financial terms.
In other news, following the closing of the accounts at the end of the 2003 financial period, the United Nations transferred $2 billion today from the programme's escrow account to the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), bringing to $7.6 billion the total that has been transferred since the adoption of resolution 1483, which lifted the sanctions and ended the operation.