EU Rallies Behind Annan
UNITED NATIONS – The European Union threw its political weight behind beleaguered U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) on Friday but the United States again refused to back him and a U.S. senator reiterated his call for the U.N. chief to resign.
Outside the United States, there is no clamor for Annan's resignation, and the secretary-general has been picking up support from many of the 191 U.N. member states. He has the important backing of the four other veto-wielding members on the U.N. Security Council — Russia, China, Britain and France.
In a show of support from the powerful European Union (search), the ambassador of the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency, went to Annan's 38th floor office at U.N. headquarters Friday morning to express support to the secretary-general on behalf of the 25-nation bloc.
Earlier, U.S. Ambassador John Danforth (search), whose resignation as envoy to the United Nations was confirmed late Thursday, met the secretary-general. Danforth said that Annan's future wasn't discussed, but he refused several times to back him — virtually the same stance taken Thursday by President Bush.
Danforth was asked whether the United States had confidence in Annan in view of Washington's calling for a thorough, comprehensive and objective investigation of the allegations of corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.
It's important that those interested in the success of the investigation "go into this with an open mind — and that means neither prejudging it on the side of innocence or the side of guilt," said Danforth. The envoy will return to his home in St. Louis when Bush's first term ends in January.
Several U.S. newspapers have called for Annan to be replaced because of the oil-for-food allegations, but Sen. Norm Coleman's (search) demand for the secretary-general to resign made headlines earlier this week.
The Minnesota Republican reiterated in a televised interview on Friday that the U.N. chief executive presided over the "greatest fraud and theft" in the history of the United Nations.
"You need credibility and you can't have that if the guy who is in charge is still in charge," said Coleman, who is leading one of five U.S. Congressional investigations into the oil-for-food accusations.
The program began in 1996 to help Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It allowed Saddam's government to sell unlimited quantities of oil provided most of the proceeds went to buy food, medicine and humanitarian goods and to compensate victims of the 1991 Gulf War.
Two weeks ago, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations which Coleman chairs said it had uncovered evidence that Saddam's government raised more than $21.3 billion in illegal revenue by subverting U.N. sanctions and the oil-for-food program.
The secretary-general has appointed former U.S. Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker to head an independent inquiry into the program, handing over all U.N. documents and ordering U.N. officials to cooperate.
The 54 African nations sent a letter or support to Annan Tuesday, and he got strong backing Wednesday at a meeting with 11 ambassadors including Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, South Korea and Turkey.