Kofi Annan E-Mail Discounted

The executive who wrote an e-mail memo suggesting that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan may have known about a U.N. contract awarded to the company that employed his son denies that he ever discussed the firm's bid with the U.N. chief, his lawyers said Wednesday.

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 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.

Annan, back in the spotlight over the oil-for-food scandal, said in an interview to be published Thursday he has no intention of resigning and is determined to continue his work to reform the United Nations.

"I take seriously the allegations against me," Annan told France's Le Figaro newspaper.

"That is why I wanted the Independent Inquiry Committee chaired by former Federal Reserve President Paul Volcker to carry out an in-depth investigation of this affair."

The committee said Tuesday it would again investigate Annan after an e-mail suggested he may have known more than he claimed about a multimillion-dollar U.N. contract awarded to the company that employed his son.

The e-mail described an encounter between Annan and officials from Cotecna Inspection S.A. in late 1998, during which the Swiss company's bid for the contract was raised.

If accurate, the new details would cast doubt on a major finding the U.N.-backed Independent Inquiry Committee made in March — that there wasn't enough evidence to show that Annan knew about efforts by Cotecna, which employed his son Kojo, to win the Iraq oil-for-food contract. The Associated Press obtained the e-mail Tuesday.

Through his spokesman, Annan said he didn't remember the late 1998 meeting. He repeatedly has insisted that he didn't know Cotecna was pursuing a contract with the oil-for-food program.

"We all want the truth," said Annan, who did not specifically mention the e-mail or make any direct reference to his son in the comments to Le Figaro.

Annan said he found it "regrettable that Mr. Volcker cannot conduct his work in serenity — and that is because of constant leaks to the press and incessant attacks against me, against the U.N. and against the committee itself."