16 April 2004
Russia Opposes U.N. Resolution on Iraq
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS - Russia said Friday it strongly opposes any U.N. resolution
endorsing an investigation into allegations of corruption in the U.N.
oil-for-food program for Iraq.
The United Nations confirmed Friday that former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman
Paul Volcker was prepared to serve on a panel investigating the corruption
allegations and said "a Security Council resolution would be extremely helpful
for the work of the inquiry."
But Russia's deputy U.N. Ambassador Gennady Gatilov said the Security Council's
recent pledge to cooperate with the inquiry was sufficient and no resolution was
Diplomats said Volcker was insisting on a resolution, apparently because the
investigation will include the U.N. Secretariat, which the secretary-general
heads, as well as dealings with governments and companies. Volcker's office
declined to comment.
Russian companies will undoubtedly come under scrutiny in any investigation
because they were major buyers of Iraqi oil and suppliers of humanitarian goods
to the program, which allowed Saddam Hussein's regime to sell oil and use the
money to buy humanitarian goods and pay reparations to victims of the 1991 Gulf
Under the program, which began in December 1996 and ended in November, Saddam's
government decided on the goods it wanted, who should provide them and who could
buy Iraqi oil — but a U.N. committee monitored the contracts.
The corruption allegations first surfaced in January in the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada.
It included a list of about 270 former government officials, activists and
journalists from more than 46 countries suspected of profiting from Iraqi oil
Gatilov said Russia doesn't want "to look backwards into the history, and to
stir up the old issue of the humanitarian program, which is closed." He declined
to say whether Russia would use its veto to block a resolution.
"We don't mind for the secretary-general to appoint the commission but we don't
see the need to support his decision in the form of a resolution," he told The
Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched an internal inquiry into the allegations
in February but canceled it in March to allow an independent examination.
U.S. lawmakers have expressed skepticism that the United Nations can create an
independent panel that might implicate some of its own high-ranking officials.
U.S. diplomats pressed for an American to lead the panel and backed Volcker, who
has a reputation for integrity and fairness.
U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham said the United States supports Annan's
"We want the investigation to start soon and to be effective, and if it's useful
to have the council support that, then we think it would be a good thing to do,"
U.N. associate spokeswoman Marie Okabe confirmed Friday that Annan has chosen
Volcker and two others to lead the investigation: former Yugoslav war crimes
prosector Richard Goldstone of South Africa and Swiss criminal law professor
Mark Pieth, an expert on money laundering for the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development.
She said Annan told the Security Council president and ambassadors from the five
permanent council members — the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain
— that the three indicated a resolution "would be extremely helpful for them to
carry out this inquiry."