12/29/2004, 00.00
IRAQ - UNITED NATIONS
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UN knew about Saddam's smuggling under the oil-for-food programme, says independent investigation

More violence in Baghdad, 29 people die in an ambush.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The UN Security Council knew about the money that Saddam Hussein obtained illegally, but did nothing to stop the smuggling and corruption. This is what Paul Volcker, head of an independent investigation into alleged corruption in the UN oil-for-food programme, told the US-backed television Arabic TV al-Hurra.

Mr Volcker questioned the reliability of reports that Hussein diverted US$ 1.7 billion to US$ 21 billion from the US$ 60 billion programme.

He refused to give any estimates, saying there was a lot of confusion about the money Hussein earned from smuggling and that which he obtained illegally under the programme. But there are no doubts there were "problems in the oil-for-food area," Mr Volcker said. "When you look at those US billion figures, or US$ 20 billion figures, most of those numbers are so-called smuggling, much of which was known and taken note of by the Security Council, but not stopped".

In an October report, top US weapons investigator Charles Duelfer said Hussein was able to "subvert" the programme to generate US$ 1.7 billion in revenue outside UN control from 1997 till 2003.

What's more, Iraq sold oil worth US$ 8 billion to Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt through smuggling or illegal pumping.

In the meantime, violence continues unabated in Iraq. Late yesterday evening a bomb exploded in western Baghdad killing 29 people and injuring 18.

First accounts say that Iraqi agents were entering a house after being tipped off about a possible terrorist suspect hiding there when it blew up killing 7 of them as well as 22 other people.

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