Saddam made billions from oil-for-food

Saddam Hussein’s regime made more than $21.3 billion in illegal revenue by subverting the U.N. oil-for-food program, according to congressional investigators.

“This is like an onion — we just keep uncovering more layers and more layers,” said Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), whose Senate Committee on Government Affairs received the new information at hearing yesterday.

New figures on Iraq’s alleged surcharges, kickbacks and oil-smuggling are based on troves of new documents obtained by the committee’s investigative panel, Coleman told reporters before the hearing. The documents illustrate how Iraqi officials, foreign companies and sometimes politicians allegedly contrived to allow the Iraqi government vast illicit gains.

The findings also reflect a growing understanding by investigators of the intricate schemes Saddam used to buy support abroad for a move to lift U.N. sanctions.

Coleman said the probe is just beginning and that officials aim to discover “how this massive fraud was able to thrive for so long.”



New border security process enters test phase

Bridges to Mexico in this traffic-choked city began testing a new immigration security program yesterday that requires some U.S. visitors to be fingerprinted and photographed as they cross the border.

The screening by the Homeland Security Department was being tested yesterday at Gateways from Mexico in Laredo and Douglas, Ariz., and the Canadian border city of Port Huron, Mich.

The technology — which also calls for running checks on the visitors — has been in place at U.S. airports and seaports since Jan. 5, but officials want to pinpoint any glitches before the program extends to the nation’s 50 busiest land crossings by year’s end.

“We always test first,” said Anna Hinken, program outreach manager.

Digital fingerscans and photos are matched with databases to determine if visitors might be wanted for immigration problems and crimes or are on lists barring them from entering the country because of suspected terrorist ties. Extra security requirements were passed by Congress in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands

Dutch official: More arrest power necessary

Spurred by the first terrorist killing on its soil, the Dutch justice minister said yesterday authorities need broader arrest powers to combat a growing threat from Islamic radicals in the Netherlands.

In an Associated Press interview, Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner also suggested the spread of Islamic radicalism is wider than the government previously acknowledged.

He said the new laws would empower anti-terrorism investigators to detain suspects without evidence that they may have committed a crime.

“In those cases where we can’t even clearly prove the existence of recruitment or radicalization, but only have a suspicion, we will still use possible administrative powers and other powers to disrupt it as much as possible,” said Donner, the country’s leading terrorism official.



U.N. imposes arms embargo on Ivory Coast

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to impose an immediate arms embargo against Ivory Coast and gave the country’s warring sides one month to revive a shattered peace process or face more sanctions.

The resolution is the council’s attempt to rein in chaos that began Nov. 4 in Ivory Coast when government forces launched a new offensive against rebels in the north.

Three days later, President Laurent Gbagbo’s air force bombed a French military post, killing nine French peacekeepers and an American aid worker. That touched off violent demonstrations that led to the evacuation of more than 5,000 foreigners.

The resolution, drafted by France, imposes an immediate 13-month arms embargo against Ivory Coast.


-Compiled from Daily wire reports

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