'Hell No,' Kofi Won't Go

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Investigators said Tuesday there wasn't enough evidence to show that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan knew of a contract bid by his son's employer for the oil-for-food program in Iraq. However, they criticized the U.N. chief for not properly investigating possible conflicts of interest in the matter.

Asked if he was planning to step down in a response to the program, Annan replied, "Hell, no."

The report released Tuesday accused the company, Cotecna Inspection S.A., and Annan's son, Kojo, of trying to conceal their relationship after the contract was awarded. It criticized Kofi Annan for conducting only a one-day investigation into the issue, and faulted his management of the world body.

The investigation led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker did not accuse the U.N. chief of corruption or any other wrongdoing. But its conclusion fell well short of the clear vindication that the secretary-general had wanted.

Even so, Annan said he was happy with the report's findings he committed no wrongdoing.

"After so many distressing and untrue allegations have been made against me, this exoneration by the independent inquiry obviously comes as a great relief," Annan told reporters.

CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk said that while the report "stops short of accusing the secretary-general of financial gains in the scandal, it makes damaging accusations about Kofi Annan's failure to prevent his own son from being involved in corruption and conflicts of interest.

"Stacked up with the recent admission by Kofi Annan that he met on several occasions with officials from Cotecna – the Swiss company involved in the scandal – and that incriminating documents were destroyed by Annan's staff, the report is yet another blow to U.N. credibility," Falk said.

At a press conference after the report was released, Volcker said there wasn't enough evidence to suggest that Kofi Annan knew about the process by which Cotecna was selected for an inspection contract under the oil-for-food program, or that he tried to influence it.

"Our investigation has disclosed several instances in which he might, or could have become aware, of Cotecna's participation in the bidding process," Volcker said. "However, there is neither convincing testimony to that effect nor any documentary evidence."
  • Lloyd Vries

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