UNITED NATIONS

Report criticizes Annan’s role in oil-for-food

In a devastating assessment of the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq, investigators strongly criticized Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his deputy and the Security Council for allowing Saddam Hussein to bilk $10.2 billion from the giant humanitarian operation and oil smuggling operations.

Annan said he took personal responsibility for the lapses but he stressed he had no plans to resign. “The report is critical of me personally, and I accept the criticism,” he said.

The Independent Inquiry Committee’s report on the oil-for-food program said those managing the program failed the ideals of the United Nations, ignoring clear evidence of corruption and waste that flourished after it was created in 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis.

 

GAZA CITY, Gaza

Gunmen kill former Palestinian security chief

About 100 masked militants stormed the heavily guarded home of Gaza’s former security chief early yesterday, dragged him out in his pajamas and killed him in a burst of gunfire — a brazen challenge to the Palestinian Authority days before Israel was to hand over Gaza.

Moussa Arafat, a cousin of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was killed after a 30-minute gun battle between the assailants and dozens of bodyguards. The fighting with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles raged just a block from the headquarters of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service. The gunmen also kidnapped Arafat’s son, Manhal.

The Popular Resistance Committees, a violent group made up largely of former members of the Fatah movement of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, later claimed responsibility.

“The inescapable conclusion from the committee’s work is that the United Nations organization needs thorough reform-and it needs it urgently,” the report said.

 

BAGHDAD

Roadside bomb kills convoy of American guards

A roadside bomb struck a convoy of American security guards yesterday in the southern city of Basra, killing four U.S. contractors, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.

Three of the contractors were killed instantly and a fourth died after British troops took him to a military hospital after the bombing in Basra, said Peter Mitchell, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Baghdad.

“All four individuals worked for a private security firm supporting the regional U.S. Embassy office in Basra,” Mitchell said in a statement.

Initial reports had indicated that the target of the attack was a British diplomatic convoy, but officials in London said no British personnel were involved.

AP Television News videotape showed an overturned white SUV in a ravine next to a busy highway. Six British Army Land Rovers, with Iraqi police cars and two civilian ambulances were parked nearby. British soldiers were seen loading a body from the SUV into a military ambulance.

 

WASHINGTON

President, other justices mourn loss of Rehnquist

President Bush led the nation in a final tribute to William Rehnquist yesterday, remembering the 16th chief justice as the Supreme Court’s steady presence and a man of lifetime integrity.

The president told hundreds assembled at Rehnquist’s private funeral — family, former clerks, lawmakers and Cabinet members — that the justice was a kind soul who accomplished much in a life that included 33 years on the high court.

“We remember the integrity and the sense of duty that he brought to every task before him,” Bush told the audience at historic St. Matthew’s Cathedral. Rehnquist was a steady, guiding presence on the court, Bush said.

Despite battling thyroid cancer, Rehnquist managed to attend Bush’s second inauguration in January and administer the oath of office to the president — a gesture Bush recalled with appreciation.

— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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