Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ex-French U.N. Diplomat Taken Into Custody

Former French U.N. Ambassador Taken Into Custody As Part of Probe Into Oil-For-Food Program
France's former U.N. ambassador has been taken into custody as part of an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in the Iraq oil-for-food program, judicial officials said Tuesday.
Jean-Bernard Merimee, 68, who also was ambassador to Italy from 1995-98 and to Australia in the 1980s, is suspected of having received kickbacks in the form of oil allocations from the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. He was also a special adviser to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan from 1999 to 2002.Merimee was taken into custody on Monday, and is expected to be presented Wednesday to the judge leading the probe, the officials said on condition of anonymity because French law does not allow disclosure of information from judicial investigations.Merimee was France's permanent representative to the U.N. from 1991-95. He was one of the world body's most prominent diplomats, in part because France occupies one of five permanent seats on the powerful U.N. Security Council.The oil for food program was established in 1996 to provide food, medical supplies and other humanitarian goods for millions of Iraqis trying to cope with U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The program ended with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.


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