- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan likely will keep his job but see his ambitious agenda for the world body badly dented after the release this week of a damning report on corruption and mismanagement in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.

The five-volume report, harshly critical of Mr. Annan and senior U.N. officials as well as a number of Security Council powers, provides fresh ammunition to the Bush administration and private critics who argue that the world body must fix itself before seeking out new missions.

“Kofi Annan’s vision of U.N. reform is to make the body more powerful and intrusive — the exact opposite of what the U.S. administration wants to see,” said Nile Gardiner, who has tracked the oil-for-food investigation for the Heritage Foundation.

“Not only has Annan been damaged personally, but the case for giving the U.N. greater powers is much harder to make today,” he said.

The Bush administration has argued consistently that plans to expand the United Nations’ mandate — through development aid targets, an international criminal court and an expanded Security Council, among other measures — must take a back seat to fixing the organization’s basic internal machinery.

“We need to reform the U.N. in a manner that will prevent another oil-for-food scandal,” John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said after the report’s release Wednesday. “The credibility of the U.N. depends on it.”

But with world leaders gathering in New York next week for what was to be a showcase summit for Mr. Annan’s reform program, there is little backing for calls by senior U.S. lawmakers that Mr. Annan quit.

Britain, the strongest U.S. ally among the Security Council powers, wants Mr. Annan to stay on despite the scandal, Foreign Minister Jack Straw said.

The massive report, produced by a panel appointed by the United Nations and chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker, also put some leading Security Council powers on the defensive yesterday.

The inquiry added fresh detail to accusations that Russian, Chinese and French middlemen helped Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein evade international sanctions and build up his coffers through abuses of the $64 billion oil-for-food program.

With vetoes on all Security Council votes, Russia, China and France helped frustrate U.S. and British efforts to tighten oversight of the Iraq program, which began in 1996 and ended in 2003.

“There was no doubt that there were difficulties with the Security Council, hampering action on some reports of smuggling and kickbacks,” Mr. Volcker said.

The panel’s recommendations focused on internal management changes: creating a post of U.N. chief operating officer, establishing an independent oversight board and broadening disclosure rules for more U.N. employees.

Mr. Annan expressed hope that his reform proposals would get a serious hearing.

“I hope they don’t get watered down to the point where they are meaningless,” he said.

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