- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has claimed that a “lynch mob” is out to “destroy” him in the wake of the Iraq oil-for-food debacle and other U.N. scandals.

In his first major interview since he was criticized in a report into the discredited oil-for-food scheme, which the United Nations administered, Mr. Annan refused to rule out stepping down in the fall, a year before his second term is due to end.

Some diplomats think Mr. Annan will remain in charge only until September, when he is due to present his draft for U.N. reform to the Security Council.

“That’s a question for the future,” Mr. Annan told New York magazine. “In life, you cannot rule out; you cannot say never or forever.”

The interim Volcker committee report, published at the end of March, looked into any role played by Mr. Annan and his son, Kojo, a businessman, in the hiring of a Swiss inspection firm, Cotecna, to monitor goods sent to Iraq under the $60 billion oil-for-food program.

Mr. Annan talked in the interview about the embarrassment caused by the younger Annan, who told his father that he no longer worked for Cotecna after the contract was granted when in fact he remained as a consultant and was paid about $400,000.

According to the Volcker report, Kojo Annan also used his father’s name to get business.

The secretary-general said that he had learned the truth only last November.

“I’ve talked to him about coming clean with everything he knows, no surprises,” Mr. Annan told the magazine.

“I’m suffering on various levels. As a secretary-general and as a father dealing with his son. It’s all very heavy and difficult.”

The interim report by the Volcker commission, appointed by Mr. Annan to investigate the scandal, found “no evidence” of improper influence by the secretary-general in the bidding or selection process that awarded the contract to Cotecna.

It did find him guilty of complacency, saying that his office’s investigation into the links between Kojo Annan and Cotecna had been “inadequate.”

Although Mr. Annan declared that he had been exonerated, two senior investigators resigned from the Volcker commission after the report was published because they feared a “de facto cover-up.”

U.S. congressional investigators plan soon to question Pierre Mouselli, a former business partner of Kojo Annan, who will fly to Washington from his base in Paris next month.

He is expected to tell the investigators that he had lunch with the secretary-general in South Africa in 1998, at which the younger Annan’s business links with Iraq purportedly were discussed. He gave similar testimony to the Volcker committee, but his evidence was played down in the interim report.

Last week, a spokesman for Mr. Annan said the secretary-general would not add to the version of events he had given the Volcker committee, in which he could recall no discussion of his son’s dealings involving Iraq during his meeting with Mr. Mouselli.

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