- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2005

From combined dispatches

NEW YORK — The executive who wrote an e-mail memo suggesting that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan might have known about a U.N. contract awarded to the company that employed Kojo Annan denies that he ever discussed the firm’s bid with the U.N. chief, his lawyers said yesterday.

The memo written by Michael Wilson describes a brief encounter in which officials from the Swiss company Cotecna Inspection S.A. discussed the company’s bid for the contract with the secretary-general “and his entourage” during a summit of French-speaking nations in Paris in late 1998.

The London law firm Schillings issued a brief statement on behalf of Mr. Wilson, who was a vice president of Cotecna at the time and is a friend of both the secretary-general and his son, Kojo.

“Mr. Wilson never met or had any discussion with the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, on the issue of the bid for the U.N. contract by Cotecna at the Francophone Summit, during the bidding process, or at any time prior to the award of the contract,” the statement said.

In an interview to be published today, Mr. Annan says he will not resign despite new accusations about his role in Iraqi oil-for-food program.

“I take seriously the allegations against me,” he says in the interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro.

“That is why I want the independent committee of inquiry chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to make an in-depth investigation of the affair.”

Mr. Annan has repeatedly denied having discussed the contract with his son or having been involved in awarding Cotecna the job.

On Tuesday, the New York Times said it obtained a copy of a memo written on Dec. 4, 1998, by Mr. Wilson, describing a meeting in late November 1998 during the 20th summit of Francophone leaders in Paris.

“We had brief discussions with the [secretary-general] and his entourage,” the memo states. “Their collective advice was that we should respond as best as we could to the Q and A session of the 1-12-98 and that we could count on their support.”

“1-12-98” refers to a meeting that Mr. Wilson and a delegation of Cotecna officials had in New York on Dec. 1, 1998, with senior U.N. officials who were considering which of three companies to select for the inspection contract that Cotecna won 10 days later, the daily said.

Mr. Annan told Le Figaro that he was waiting for the Volcker committee’s final report.

“We want all the truth,” he said.

Asked by Le Figaro: “You rule out resigning then?” Mr. Annan replied: “Absolutely.”

The oil-for-food program ran from 1996 to 2003, when U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq to oust President Saddam Hussein. The program allowed Baghdad to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods that the country lacked because of U.N. sanctions.

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