Former French ambassador held over oil-for-food

11th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 11 (AFP) - Jean-Bernard Mérimée, France's former representative at the UN Security Council, was taken into custody Tuesday by a judge investigating corruption linked to the Iraqi "oil-for-food" programme, justice officials said.

PARIS, Oct 11 (AFP) - Jean-Bernard Mérimée, France's former representative at the UN Security Council, was taken into custody Tuesday by a judge investigating corruption linked to the Iraqi "oil-for-food" programme, justice officials said.

Mérimée, 68, was being questioned over allegations he may have benefited from oil allocations granted under the programme by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein between 1996 and 2003.

Mérimée was France's UN ambassador from 1991 to 1995. He was then named ambassador to Italy, and from 1999 to 2002 he was a special adviser to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan on European issues.

Five people have already been placed under judicial investigation by judge Philippe Courroye in connection with the "oil-for-food" affair.

They are Serge Boidevaix, former secretary-general at the French foreign ministry; businessman Claude Kaspereit; Bernard Guillet, an adviser to former French interior minister Charles Pasqua; Gilles Munier, head of an Iraqi-French friendship society; and Palestinian journalist Hamida Nana.

Their names were all on a list of 11 alleged beneficiaries of the oil allocations which was supplied to Courroye by the UN earlier this year.

Mérimée and Pasqua were also on the list.

Under the "oil-for-food" programme -- approved by the UN in 1995 -- the government of Iraq was authorised to sell limited amounts of oil, the proceeds of which were to be devoted to humanitarian supplies.

Saddam Hussein is believed to have granted "vouchers" to individuals known to oppose sanctions against Iraq. These were then sold on for a mark-up to oil companies that were authorised to trade with Baghdad.

Courroye began his investigation in 2002 -- before the US invasion of Iraq -- into illegal commissions allegedly paid by the French oil group Total in order to obtain contracts with Baghdad.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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