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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Annan Tells It Like It Is

In an interview responding to questions about the recently released Iraq Survey Group Final Report, Kofi Annan challenged allegations from supporters of President Bush that Russia and France supported sanction reduction in return for oil vouchers.

BBC NEWS-- Annan rejects Iraq oil bribe claim

"The UN Secretary General has dismissed allegations that France and Russia might have been willing to ease sanctions on Iraq in return for oil.

Kofi Annan said in an interview to British television channel ITV the claims were 'inconceivable.'

'These are very serious and important governments. You are not dealing with banana republics,' he added.

The allegations were made earlier this month in a report by the US-led Iraqi Survey Group.

Chief US weapons inspector Charles Duelfer said he had found evidence in documents that Iraqi intelligence under Saddam Hussein had tried to bribe foreign nationals from a number of countries to obtain the lifting of sanctions.

Particular attention was allegedly given to French and Russian nationals due to the fact that the two countries hold permanent seats on the UN Security Council.

But Mr Annan firmly dismissed the claims: 'I don't think the Russian or the French or the Chinese government would allow itself to be bought because some of their companies are getting contracts from the Iraqi authorities,' Mr Annan said.

'I don't believe it at all,' he added."

-- Here's an excerpt from the report about Iraq's attempt to bribe Russia.

"The former Iraqi Regime sought a relationship with Russia to engage in extensive arms purchases and to gain support for lifting the sanctions in the UNSC. Saddam followed a two-pronged strategy to pursue weapons capability while also coping with sanctions imposed following invasion of Kuwait. The Regime continued to import weapons and technical expertise, while seeking diplomatic support for lifting/easing sanctions. Iraq sought to tie other countries’ interests to Iraq’s through allocating contracts under the OFF program and entering into lucrative construction projects to be executed once sanctions had been lifted. At best, the Iraqi strategy produced mixed results. Russian commercial interests provided a motivation for supporting Iraq; Russian political and strategic interests set limits to that support" (emphasis mine).

-- The report accuses the Hussein Regime of doing everything in its power to gain the favor of Russian and French governments, but (as far as I was able to find) falls short of saying that those attempts had any effect. (In fact, the report admits Saddam's convincing strategy to make the sanctions look more inhumane than they were. In view of this deception, couldn't France's and Russia's support of sanctions relaxation been a legitimate policy?)

Bush says that Kerry is not respecting our allies when he says we're going it alone. How much harder does it make U.S. work in the United Nations when the Bush administration is making claims like these? Conservatives say that the U.N. has abandoned us. I wonder why? If the Bush administration is going to accuse these countries of accepting bribes it needs to produce evidence. Frivolous accusations will make it significantly more difficult for the U.S. to work internationally-- and not only in Iraq. Whether the neo-cons want to believe it or not, one day we will need it.

And again, from the BBC Report.

"In the same interview, being broadcast on Sunday, the UN secretary general also said the US-led war on Iraq had not made the world a safer place.

'I cannot say the world is safer when you consider the violence around us, when you look around you and you see the terrorist attacks around the world, and you see what is going on in Iraq,' he said.

-- Well, we all know how conservatives feel about Kofi Annan, but he is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and very well respected throughout the world. I, for one, trust his judgement more than Bush's. But this assessment is not a matter of judgement. It's a matter of turning on the television and facing reality.


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