- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

“Gaping holes” in the oversight of the United Nations’ oil-for-food program allowed Iraq to rebuild its military, steer contracts to supporters and undermine international sanctions, a former inspector for the program told Congress yesterday.

Rehan Mullick, a Pakistani sociologist hired by the United Nations to analyze the oil-for-food program in Baghdad in 2000, said in testimony that when he tried to report abuses to his superiors in New York, his authority was slashed and his employment contract was allowed to lapse.

“Soon after I started my job, it became amply evident to me that there were gaping holes in the U.N.’s efforts” to monitor and evaluate the vast program, Mr. Mullick told the House International Relations subcommittee on oversight and investigation.

Supporters of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had infiltrated the U.N. monitoring office, and the U.N. statistics on humanitarian deliveries bore little relation to reality, he added.

“The Iraqi regime was using the oil-for-food supplies to rebuild its tattered military, to accommodate its cohorts in the procurement process, to be preferential in the distribution of these supplies and to stage-manage the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq in making a case for the lifting of” international sanctions, he said.

The oil-for-food scandal is the latest black eye for the United Nations. U.S. investigators now estimate that Saddam was able to skim $10 billion or more through kickbacks and secret oil deals from a program designed to sell Iraqi oil for a tightly restricted list of food and humanitarian goods.

Mr. Mullick’s story, parts of which were reported in this week’s National Journal, came two days after a separate hearing looking into the need for organizational reform at the world body.

“This many-faceted, sprawling entity is very much in need of focused scrutiny and extensive reform,” said House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, President Reagan’s representative to the United Nations, singled out the need for changes at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The office has a “nauseating record” of ineffectiveness, she said, pointing out its failure to stop genocidal violence in Rwanda, Bosnia and, most recently, Sudan.

Richard C. Holbrooke, President Clinton’s U.N. ambassador, agreed the body needed reforms, but placed some of the blame on Washington.

“Due to a lack of American engagement, the institution is hijacked by states whose practices are anathema to all that the U.N. stands for,” he said.

U.N. defenders say that in the oil-for-food program, many of the abuses were made possible because the United States turned a blind eye to Saddam’s illegal oil sales to allies such as Turkey and Jordan.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican who chairs the investigations subcommittee, said yesterday he may call former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and other Clinton administration officials to explain why the policy tolerating the illegal sales was put into place.

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