Roger L. Simon

UNSCAM be damned, Kofi offers Katrina help

The spectre of Kofi Annan on CNN offering the UN’s help for the New Orleans hurricane disaster was another odd moment among many in the network’s peculiar Katrina coverage. Although the subdued Annan did not state he would personally visit the disaster, he did not “rule it out.”

The Sec’y General offered this aid while being interviewed by CNN’s UN correspondent Richard Roth. Roth, generally a strong UN supporter, minutes later did not seem too optimistic about the conclusions regarding Kofi in the Volcker Oil-for-Food report due Wednesday. It seems now that this report will be less favorable to the Sec’y General than anticipated. Even as UN-friendly an outlet as LAT is skeptical.

UNITED NATIONS – Investigators confronted Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday with findings of their probe of the $64-billion Iraqi oil-for-food program, concluding that he bore primary responsibility for mismanagement and faulting him for not acting to halt suspected abuses by contractors and laxity by member states, said diplomats who spoke to Annan after the meeting.

The investigators, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, are expected to issue a public report Wednesday about abuses in the relief program. A committee spokesman said it would be at least 700 pages and would also examine the responsibility of Security Council members who knowingly allowed Saddam Hussein to reap billions from smuggling and kickbacks.

Annan’s office refused to comment publicly Thursday on the meeting between the secretary-general and the investigators. Diplomats who talked to Annan afterward, but asked to remain anonymous, said he told them that the investigators had “no smoking gun” or evidence of wrongdoing on his part.

A senior aide to Annan, who also asked to remain anonymous, said, “I very much hope that while it may be a damaging report, it will be a survivable report.

“He does feel that he has not done anything wrong, and that the program should have been much better managed, and that he clearly will take the responsibility for that, unambiguously,” the senior aide said. “But he doesn’t think it is a resigning matter.”

Others may differ. But Kofi may be lucky in his timing, if not in Volcker’s conclusions. The attention of the press and the world may quite frankly be otherwise engaged. (hat tip: Captain Marlow)