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Annan on defensive over fraud charges


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UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan hit back at the media over allegations of widespread fraud and corruption in the UN programme that oversaw Saddam Hussein's oil sales in Iraq.

With a brewing scandal enveloping the United Nations over the programme, a defensive Annan blamed "outrageous" press reports about the affair and also took a swipe at the United States and Britain.

"If you read the reports it looks as if the Saddam regime had nothing to do with it. They did nothing wrong, it was all the UN," he told reporters in some of his bluntest comments yet on the matter.

"Some of the comments that I have been read have been constructive and thoughtful. Others have been rather outrageous and exaggerated," he said.

Annan has already appointed an independent enquiry headed by former US Federal Reserve banking chief Paul Volcker to look into the oil-for-food programme, which was the largest aid scheme in UN history.

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