The United States Government gave unambiguous support today to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan after several days of attacks on him by a US senator and sections of the US news media over the UN's supervision of the Iraq Oil-for-Food programme.
The US Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador John Danforth, told a news conference that he had repeatedly expressed his Government's position that the investigations of the programme by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and the US Congress should go forward, but this had been misunderstood as a US wish to force Mr. Annan to step down.
Mr. Volcker heads an independent inquiry committee commissioned by Mr. Annan after allegations of corruption emerged.
"It is important for us, the US, to clarify our position. We are not suggesting the resignation or pushing for the resignation of the Secretary-General," Mr. Danforth said, describing his statement as the consensus view of the Bush White House and State Department.
"We have worked well with him in the past. We anticipate working well with him in the future for time to come," he said, adding, "No one has cast doubt on the personal integrity of the Secretary-General. No one. And we certainly don't."
Under UN Security Council supervision, the 1991-2003 Oil-for-Food programme allowed President Saddam Hussein, now ousted, to use part of Iraq's oil revenues for humanitarian relief while the country was under sanctions for Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Allegations arose that Mr. Saddam was able to skim large sums of money from the programme and may have bribed officials in several countries.
After Mr. Annan got a standing ovation yesterday from the 191-member General Assembly, it was interpreted by GA President, Jean Ping of Gabon, as an expression of confidence in his work as the head of the world body. His term ends at the end of 2006.
The US Ambassador told the news conference that the United States was joining the governments that have already expressed confidence in Mr. Annan. Over 130 countries, including the members of the European and African Unions, have voiced their support for the Secretary-General.
Mr. Danforth said Mr. Annan still had important work to do, including lending the UN's assistance with the Iraqi and Palestinian elections, as well as with the conflicts in Sudan. He said Mr. Annan's presence at UN Security Council meetings last month in Nairobi, Kenya, had been helpful.
He also emphasized the importance of Mr. Volcker's investigation, saying its completion was the only way to lift a cloud from the UN and let the sunlight in.