Paris distances itself from oil-for-food suspects

12th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 12 (AFP) - The French foreign ministry Wednesday distanced itself from two former senior diplomats who are implicated in an investigation into corruption related to Iraq's oil-for-food programme.

PARIS, Oct 12 (AFP) - The French foreign ministry Wednesday distanced itself from two former senior diplomats who are implicated in an investigation into corruption related to Iraq's oil-for-food programme.

"According to the information we have, Messieurs Serge Boidevaix and Jean-Bernard Mérimée are the subjects of legal action to do with their private activities carried out after their retirement," ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei told journalists.

Mérimée, 68, French ambassador to the United Nations in New York -- and therefore a Security Council regular -- between 1991 and 1995, was Monday taken into custody by a French judge probing alleged allocations granted under the oil-for-food programme by deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein between 1996 and 2003.

Boidevaix, 77, a former secretary-general at the French foreign ministry, is one of five other people already placed under judicial investigation by judge Philippe Courroye in connection with the case.

The others are: 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.

The foreign ministry said it had written to Boidevaix and Mérimée in September 2001 to remind them of their "special responsibilities" as former top diplomats and had received acknowledgement of the letters.

"Their private activities involve only themselves and in no way the government or the ministry of foreign affairs," Mattei said.

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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