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U.S. To Assist Inquiry Into Alleged Oil-For-Food Fraud

Kuwait City, 20 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell today said that Washington will assist a fraud inquiry into allegations that the deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein diverted money from the UN-sponsored oil-for-food program.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday proposed to investigate U.S. congressional claims that Hussein skimmed billions of dollars from the program.

The program was intended to allow the Iraqi regime to use revenue from oil sales to buy essential supplies in order to ease the impact of 1991 Gulf War sanctions on ordinary citizens. It ended last year.

Powell today said that the U.S. administration in Iraq and the Iraqi Governing Council have frozen all the records that exist in Baghdad with respect to the program and that these records will be available for UN investigators "whenever they will ask for them."