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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Easing Up in Iraq Probe

UNITED NATIONS -- Russia probably will not block United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's request to turn over potentially sensitive documents to oil-for-food investigators despite its initial concerns, diplomats said Thursday.

A Russian diplomat said Moscow would probably fall in line with the 14 other members of the council and agree to Annan's request to hand over notes taken by UN Secretariat officials at meetings of a Security Council committee that oversaw the oil-for-food program.

Annan told the council at a meeting Wednesday night that the probe wanted the documents and while he intended to hand them over, he wanted to check with the council first.

Diplomats had expressed concern about the accuracy of the notes, sloppy translations and the inclusion of personal opinions.

There was also a debate over whether the notes belong to the Secretariat or to the Security Council.

"There was a lot of confusion in the meeting about what papers were actually under discussion and then there was lot of confusion about some of the legalities of the issue," U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson said. "So once these issues were sorted out, it was actually a pretty simple issue."

Some council diplomats questioned whether the meeting with Annan might be a political ploy by the secretary-general, one diplomat said.

They were concerned that by asking for permission to release the notes, Annan was shifting responsibility for their contents away from his office.

The result would be that council member states, and not the secretariat, would be blamed if the notes contained damaging information.

The Independent Inquiry Committee, headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, is investigating alleged corruption in the $64 billion program, in which Iraq got food, medicine and humanitarian goods in exchange for oil.

It has collected thousands of documents from the Secretariat, but wanted the entire file of notes from the closed-door sanctions committee meetings and informal meetings of the Security Council to make sure it was not missing anything, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

He described Annan's request as a courtesy to the council.

Members agreed to consult with their capitals and get back to him with any objections by noon Tuesday.

"Obviously, it portrays the discussions and expressions by the members of the council, so we thought it would just be wise to discuss with them prior," Dujarric said.

Diplomats who attended the meeting portrayed Russia as raising the most serious concerns, especially about whose documents they were.

But the Russian diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private, said Moscow believed the documents belonged to the Secretariat.

"It's up to the secretary-general to transfer these documents, but the secretary-general expressed his intention to consult with members of the Security Council, so following his request, we reported it to Moscow," the diplomat said.