Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue announced on Monday that China hopes the UN inquiry team will find the truth concerning the oil-for-food program through just, independent, objective and transparent investigation.
The oil-for-food program, launched in December 1996 and terminated in November 2003, was intended to alleviate the effects on the Iraqi people of the international sanctions imposed on the regime of Saddam Hussein. It allowed Iraq to sell oil under UN supervision to buy food, medicine and other necessities.
But US congressional investigators say Saddam's regime may have skimmed billions of dollars from the program, and allegations of payoffs to officials and private individuals around the globe -- some of them in the United Nations -- have surfaced.
On December 1, US Republican Senator Norm Coleman called for the resignation of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan "because the most extensive fraud in the history of the UN occurred on his watch."
Coleman is chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which has been investigating the oil-for-food program for seven months. He claims that his team, which is conducting one of five congressional investigations into the affair, has seen evidence that the Saddam regime accumulated some US$21 billion illegally by manipulating the UN-managed program.
Annan's son Kojo was paid for consulting work for a Swiss firm, Cotecna, which inspected goods entering Iraq under the program. Annan said that he was surprised to learn that his son was still on the Cotecna payroll.
There have been no allegations that Annan personally profited from the scheme.
Annan has appointed the former head of the US Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker, to lead an inquiry into the allegations and has ordered all UN personnel to cooperate.
The UN chief has received strong support from European Union countries and other UN member nations concerning the affair.
Many Republican members of the US Congress have criticized Annan's leadership of the UN in the past, particularly in response to his opposition to the war in Iraq.
(Xinhua News Agency, China.org.cn December 7, 2004)