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10.12.2004 General News

U.S. turns about-face on Annan

By Associated Press
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American envoy now says the U.N. secretary-general ought to remain UNITED NATIONS - The United States expressed confidence in Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday and said he should remain at the helm of the United Nations, an abrupt turnaround from its refusal to back him last week after a U.S. senator called for his resignation.

The unequivocal support from U.S. Ambassador John Danforth, who said he was speaking on behalf of the Bush administration, aligned the United States with the 190 other members of the United Nations who rallied to support Annan.

"We are not suggesting or pushing for the resignation of the secretary-general," Danforth said. "We have worked well with him in the past and look forward to working with him ... in the future."

Sen. Norm Coleman's call last week for Annan's resignation amid allegations of corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq led to an outpouring of support from nations around the world.

The leaders of U.S. ally Britain, as well as France, Russia, Germany and other countries phoned the secretary-general to back him, and Annan got a rare standing ovation Wednesday from the U.N. General Assembly which includes all 191 U.N. member states.

President Bush twice refused to support the secretary-general last week, stressing that he wanted a "full and fair and open accounting of the oil-for-food program" so U.S. taxpayers "feel comfortable about supporting the United Nations."

Danforth said U.S. support for a thorough oil-for-food investigation had been misinterpreted as a lack of confidence in Annan and a desire for his resignation. He said he was asked to clarify that the United States supported the secretary-general and did not want him to step down.

In his news conference Thursday, Danforth said the oil-for-food probe was essentially "a criminal investigation" and that the investigators must determine whether anyone is guilty of bribery, payoffs and corruption."

Danforth was asked about recent revelations about Annan's son, Kojo, who worked in Africa for a Swiss-based company that had an oil-for-food contract. He implied that Kojo Annan has to answer for himself.

"There is no question as to the personal integrity of the secretary-general," he said.

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