(CNSNews.com) - During a year-end news conference on Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan admitted that allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food program have "cast a shadow" over that operation and the U.N. itself.
"Our global mission has advanced on many fronts" during 2004, Annan said, "but the allegations about the oil-for-food program have cast a shadow over the operations that brought relief to millions of Iraqis.
"We must find out the truth as soon as possible," he said, pledging to take action on an investigation led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.
Annan disclosed that Volcker's first report in January would be accompanied by U.N. internal audits, which have been sought by congressional investigators also looking into the corruption allegations.
The oil-for-food program permitted Iraq under former dictator Saddam Hussein to sell oil -- despite an economic embargo -- provided the proceeds were used for food and medicine for the Iraqi people.
Allegations of corruption and wrongdoing by U.N. personnel have led to calls for Annan to resign, though the secretary-general told reporters that the topic of his stepping down did not come up in a meeting with top U.S. officials last week.
"I have the confidence and the support of the member states" of the U.N., Annan added, stating that he still expects to serve the remaining two years in his term as secretary-general.
Also, Annan confirmed that the U.N. will play a substantial role in the upcoming Iraqi election. "I see important openings for peace," he said, adding that continuing violence in Iraq could influence voter turnout in the Jan. 30 election.
While Annan said he will move ahead with preparations for a summit in Sep. 2005 where world leaders will consider major U.N. reforms to address global security threats, the secretary-general added that he's "relieved this annus horribilis has come to an end," using the Latin words for a "horrible year."
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