Leahy shows support for United Nations leader

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy is lending his support to the secretary general of the United Nations. Leahy is one of the U.S. delegates to the U.N.’s new session.

Secretary General Kofi Annan is facing allegations of mismanagement of the Oil for Food program in Iraq. Leahy says the calls for Annan’s removal from office are premature.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Leahy is at the United Nations this week because in mid-September President Bush nominated Leahy to serve on the congressional delegation for the opening of the U.N.’s 59th session of its General Assembly. New Hampshire senator John Sununu is the other U.S. representative.

Several Republican member of Congress have called on Secretary General Kofi Annan to resign because they believe he’s involved in a scandal involving the U.N.’s Oil for Food program with Iraq. Following a meeting with the Secretary General, Leahy made it clear that he thinks it’s a mistake to take any action against Annan until a full investigation has been completed:

(Leahy) “Paul Volcker is undertaking a major investigation of the whole Oil for Peace program and I think we ought to wait for his response and his report. In the meantime, we’ve got everything from Palestinian elections to ending genocide in the Sudan and those are the things the secretary general should be concentrating on. And I think that’s why the Bush Administration is supportive of him.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says he made public comments about the secretary general to show members of the U.N. that Annan does have support in the halls of Congress:

(Leahy) “Sometimes it’s hard for other countries to realize when individual senators speak out they don’t speak for the whole country. They don’t speak for the whole administration. And I thought my being here as a U.S. delegate to the U.N. might give everybody here a chance to hear a different view.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says he also expressed his strong concern to the secretary general about the growing problem of AIDS in Africa:

(Leahy) “I think you’re going to have countries that could literally disappear in anarchy because you end up with children raising children. It’s devastating what is happening there. Some of the countries have turned a blind eye to it, others are just becoming aware of the fact that you’re facing something that’s almost an insurmountable crisis.”

(Kinzel) Leahy also discussed the possibility of creating an international fund for the victims of civil wars throughout the world. It’s an issue that Leahy plans to pursue in his role as the ranking member of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Foreign Operations.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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