The U.N. report on the scandal-ridden oil-for-food program is slated for release on Tuesday, and insiders at the world body indicate that a beleaguered – and reportedly depressed – Kofi Annan could satisfy those seeking his resignation by voluntarily stepping down as Secretary-General of the U.N.
Just last week it was revealed that, despite earlier denials, the U.N. was paying the legal fees of disgraced oil-for-food head Benon Sevan – and using the escrow account of the oil-for-food program to do it.
That scandal followed revelations that Annan’s son, Koji, had received between $300,000 and $400,000 from the firm, Cotecna, after he had left it’s employ and before the company received a lucrative $60 million contract with the oil-for-food program. Supporters of Annan have sought to blame his son for not revealing his continuing relationship with the company to his father who claims to have been in the dark.
“Naturally I was very disappointed and surprised,” Annan told the London Telegraph, while acknowledging a problem of “perception of conflict of interest.”
But, now, new information implicates Secretary-General Annan in his own dealings with Cotecna. At three previously undisclosed meetings between 1997 and 1999, Annan met with executives of Cotecna – two of those meetings were before the oil-for-food contract was awarded and one was after.
“Why did Kofi not say before that he had met with Cotecna, especially if they really did have nothing to do with oil-for-food?” one congressional investigator asked the London Telegraph. “It just looks like another attempt to keep things hidden. These sins of omission keep adding up.”
“The fact that the secretary-general has not previously been open about his own dealings with Cotecna raises very serious questions,” echoed Nile Gardiner, an expert on the U.N. at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “At best, this is hugely embarrassing for him.”
U.N. staffers report that Annan is severely depressed over the oil-for-food investigation and the scandals involving sexual abuse of civilians by U.N. peacekeepers. One observer describes his moods as being like a “sine curve,” and he is currently near its bottom.
A U.N. staff member tells The Australian: “Kofi is going to have a rough time. For how long will depend on what Volcker has got. But it’s not going to be easy for him.”
“Kofi may be placed in a situation where he has to consider all his options,” confides another U.N. official. “That includes resignation. You won’t find many people who would want that outcome, but events may unfold in a way that makes it a real possibility.”
Annan unveiled his long awaited reforms for the U.N. last week in a report titled, “In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All.” His proposals to expand the Security Council and changing the Commission on Human Rights are likely to be overshadowed by the increasing attention given to corruption and Annan’s role in it – or, at least, his ability to reign it in.
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who’s called for Annan’s resignation in the past, heads the Senate governmental affairs investigations sub-committee and believes the new information about meetings with Cotecna makes Annan’s continued tenure even more untenable.
“The organization has to ask the question: ‘Can you achieve the type of massive reform needed if the guy who was in charge during all these mistakes is still running the show?’,” notes Coleman.
Heritage’s Gardiner concurs. “Kofi Annan is going to find his position increasingly untenable,” he tells the London Times. “There is a strong possibility he will resign voluntarily because of his declining credibility.”
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