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Annan refuses to pay legal fees for accused


Published: Thu, March 16, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan rejected an internal appeals board's ruling that he pay legal fees to the former chief of the U.N. oil-for-food program, who is accused of taking $147,000 in kickbacks and damaging the integrity of the United Nations, according to documents obtained Wednesday.
The U.N. had agreed to pay Benon Sevan's legal fees in 2004, when he became a subject of a U.N.-backed probe of fraud and waste in the $64 billion operation. Annan reversed that decision in March 2005 when that very probe accused him of a role in the scandal, and Sevan appealed to the internal tribunal.
The previously secret Feb. 6 ruling by the Joint Appeals Board, obtained by The Associated Press, upheld Sevan's appeal.
In a March 3 letter, also obtained by the AP, U.N. Undersecretary-General Christopher Burnham said Annan would uphold his refusal to pay Sevan's legal fees, despite the board's ruling.
The agreement to pay Sevan's fees "was contingent upon the absence of wrongdoing," Burnham wrote Sevan in the letter.
The board's decision to side with Annan was nonbinding.


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