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Annan reverses decision about disclosing finances

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 17 (Reuters) UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has changed his mind and decided to disclose his personal finances, a U.N. official said.

Technically, Annan is not considered a staff member and does not have to fill out the new U.N. financial forms, tightened last year to require listing gifts more than 250 dollar.

His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, initially had said the secretary-general would be the first to do so as ''an example to the rest of the staff who need to fill it out.'' But on Thursday UN officials told Reuters that Annan, who leaves office on December 31, had not submitted the forms despite urgings from top aides he do so. The forms will not be made public.

Yesterday, UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said that was no longer the case.

She said Annan had hesitated to fill out the papers after his lawyers advised against it because he was not a staff member. She said he also did not want ''to tie the hands of his successor.'' ''However, in order to avoid any embarrassment to the organization, the secretary-general has decided to voluntarily submit a financial disclosure form,'' Okabe said.

Okabe added that Annan had allowed a full disclosure of his financial records during a probe of the billion U.N.

oil-for-food program for Iraq conducted by a panel led by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

''In its report in September 2005, the Commission found that nothing in his finances raises any suspicion,'' Okabe said.

Volcker investigated corruption by the United Nations, companies and governments that did business with Saddam Hussein during an 18-month probe of the program.

His September 7, 2005, report concluded that Annan's financial data from 1998 to 2004 did not ''reveal any payments or transactions that appear suspicious or improper.'' But Volcker faulted the U.N. chief for mismanagement of the program.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown and Christopher Burnham, the undersecretary-general for management, had urged Annan to fill out the form, according to two U.N.

officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

They argued that not doing so would damage Annan's credibility as the chief advocate for management reforms as well as an initiator of investigations into corruption among procurement officials.

The new disclosure rules require UN officials to report gifts amounting to more than 250 dollar. Officials previously were not required to report gifts under 10,000 dollars.

Reuters PDS VP0500

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