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Current Events at the United Nations

Aired June 24, 2005 - 21:00:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was the money spent? Was it stuffed in briefcases? Did it go to the salaries of ghost employees who we paid?

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA): What we found was an appalling level of incompetence, mismanagement, waste, fraud and greed.

ADAM LEBOR, AUTHOR: The lesson of Milosevic and the Milosevic era and the destruction of Yugoslavia is very simple: men with guns on the ground are stopped by more men with bigger guns on the ground.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN ANCHOR: Iraq. Millions of dollars unaccounted for. Controversy. Surprise, we're not really talking about Oil For Food but maybe its successor program.

Welcome to DIPLOMATIC LICENSE. I'm Richard Roth.

The story has been out there, but for many media organizations and the public, the story has remained that, out there, way out there. What happened to nearly $20 billion America poured through Iraq after the war began?

After numerous hearings dedicated to Oil For Food U.N. troubles, the first congressional hearings devoted specifically to the missing money, which was in something called the Development Fund For Iraq, DFI. Many members of the congressional panel, including Republicans, were outraged.


REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA): What we found was an appalling level of incompetence, mismanagement, waste, fraud and greed. As we will hear today from the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, literally billions of dollars of Iraqi assets taken from the DFI cannot be accounted for.

The story of the DFI begins at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York where the Iraqi assets were held on deposit. As the Federal Reserve documents show, cash withdrawals on a previously unimaginable scale were ordered by U.S. officials in Iraq. In total, nearly $12 billion in cash was withdrawn from the DFI account at the Federal Reserve, the largest cash withdrawals in history.

One former CPA official told us that Iraq was awash in hundred dollar bills. One contractor received a $2 million cash payment in a duffel bag. Other cash payments were made from the back of a pickup truck and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices. The records are so lacking that it is impossible to know the full extent of waste, fraud and abuse that occurred during the period of U.S. control, but what we do know is alarming.


ROTH: The mismanagement by the United States of Iraqi funds contrasts starkly with the U.N. Oil For Food case and all the abuse heaped on the global organization.


REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, (D-OH): The sanctimony animating criticism of the U.N. Oil For Food Program and threats of withholding U.N. dues is noteworthy here. Here we have a matter that is within the sole control of Congress, the scandalous mismanagement of the United States of the Iraqi's financial resources. Through symptomatic mismanagement, a lack of transparency, the U.S. occupation of Iraq has discredited the United States and I feel has brought shame on our nation.


ROTH: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney took a turn grilling the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.


STUART BOWEN, U.S. DEPT. OF DEFENSE: As I alluded to earlier --

CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): The $7 million, there is no record, and $89 million was misused or unaccounted for.

BOWEN: Inadequate receipts or documentation. That's correct.

MALONEY: Unaccounted for? OK.

So, $89 million unaccounted for and $7 million absolutely missing?

BOWEN: That is correct.

MALONEY: That is a disgrace beyond words.


ROTH: That's New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

The chairman of the committee, Christopher Shays, is giving the Pentagon until Monday to handover documents regarding investigations of Halliburton and U.S. contracts or face a subpoena.

Joining us now, a man who has answered our emergency subpoena. We welcome now, gratefully, into our CNN United Nations' office, Warren Hoge of the "New York Times."

Warren, this week on the Oil For Food side of things, while some U.N. officials were probably lapping up the bashing in the Congressional hearings in Washington, a development regarding an official who was in the Paul Volcker first report, tangentially related, you might say, to Oil For Food, the chief procurement officer, or leading procurement officer for the United Nations, is no longer at his job. What happened?

WARREN HOGE, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, his name is Alexander Yakavluv (ph). He's a Russian. And curiously, he was mentioned in the first two Volcker reports. There have been two interim reports, as you know, into Oil For Food, and he was always sorted as relatively a good guy. He was a willing witness who told them about regulations and procedures and, indeed, the people who had broken them.

And suddenly he was forced to resign, in effect, by discovery that he, in a completely non-related Oil For Food program development had given a contract to a company that then subsequently employed his son, his teenaged son, in a summer internship and then in about a six month job.

The surprising development was right after he resigned, the Volcker committee, which had always favorably referred to him, had his office sealed and examined by its inspectors, so suddenly all of us who have been covering this said, wait a second. Is he now a suspect in some kind of infraction in the Oil For Food program? And the answer apparently is yes.

ROTH: And all of this really with just weeks to go before Volcker had promised his final report and this incident and then another one a couple of weeks ago where there was a revelation of an e-mail that was written by a guy named Michael Wilson in 1998 alleging on the face of the e-mail that he had met with K.A., I think Kofi Annan, and thus clearing the way for what Wilson's company, Cotecna, wanted, which was approval of a lucrative contract to inspect humanitarian goods going into Iraq. Wilson later saying that's not what it was all about and he never met with Annan, he was denying it.

But, again, Volcker, his people, saying we're going to urgently look at this. It seems like the investigators are almost the last to know.

HOGE: Absolutely. And the other -- the lesson in all of this, Richard, I think, is that when the secretary-general here is two months away from probably the greatest gathering of world leaders in the history of the world -- 174 world leaders are now signing on to the September summit here to talk about U.N. reform and the things that Kofi Annan really wants to talk about -- Oil For Food and these kinds of difficulties keep coming back to haunt him.

And that Volcker commission report, which was originally due in June, is now probably not going to happen until August, and that's within weeks of this gigantic summit happening here. So you have the example over and over again of these two separate developments crossing each other all the time and causing tremendous problems for the secretary-general as he tries to get on with the business here at hand.

ROTH: Yet it seems that it's a big issue, Oil For Food, in the United States. But if you talk to people around the world, maybe not the diplomats, there is not much coverage in a lot of European countries and elsewhere. I mean, their more interested in getting new seats on the Security Council.

HOGE: That's absolutely true, and that's always been true, I think. It's been much more of an American obsession, and a lot of it has to do with the politics in Washington. After all, the United Nations declared the war illegal, earning, you know, long-lasting enmity from those congressmen who still supported the United Nations. The United Nations has never been really popular in Washington, but it's really hit new lows now.

But the thing I see happening here is that members of the United Nations, countries which have always given Kofi Annan support and enormous respect and have basically sort of thought he was being tortured by the United States or at least by the United States Congress because of his raising objections to the war, those people now are not as ready as they used to be to stand behind him and in effect to follow his recommendations for reform.

So he's having problems now within the United Nations from people who were always behind him and they are citing his Oil For Food problems as evidence that he's lost prestige and it's hurting him inside this building as well as outside.

ROTH: On a show that you appeared on, a DIPLOMATIC LICENSE with James Bone, the "Times of London" correspondent hinted of a potential September surprise of Annan perhaps resigning after the introduction or adoption of the reform report. Have you seen any new indications of that happening?

HOGE: I have not. That's the "Times of London," not the "Times of New York," saying that. No, I don't think that's true at all and I cannot imagine a situation in which the secretary-general would quit, unless there were some true smoking gun that emerged.

ROTH: And, again, this week the spokesman and the commission telling me Kojo Annan still not cooperating with Volcker. More to go.

Warren Hoge, of the "New York Times," thank you very much for an emergency appearance here on DIPLOMATIC LICENSE.

Coming up on DIPLOMATIC LICENSE, is the circle closing on one of the world's most wanted war criminals? Serbia giving even further indications it is seeking the handover, wherever he is, of Ratko Mladic, to get him to the Tribunal for War Crimes in the Hague. All of this while his former leader, Slobodan Milosevic, defends himself. Will he have company soon?



ROTH (voice-over): It's the footage that shocked Serbia. Video showing Serb paramilitary troops executing Bosnian Muslim prisoners in Srebrenitza. The 10th anniversary of that massacre is coming up in July. The footage was shown at the trial of the former leader of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic.

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC, FMR. SERBIAN LEADER (through translator): I would like to draw your attention.

ROTH: He concedes the video shows a crime, but denies any link with Srebrenitza or his security forces.

MILOSEVIC (through translator): The footage. You do not even have the actual place where it was filmed and the time when it was filmed.


ROTH: Welcome back to DIPLOMATIC LICENSE. I'm Richard Roth, here in the gardens of the United Nations in New York with a guest, Adam Lebor, author of a biography of Slobodan Milosevic, remember him. He's been a little bit out of the public eye, but he's been in a court in the Hague charged with genocide and other matters.

Adam, thank you for joining us here on DIPLOMATIC LICENSE.

Why has it taken four years just to see him still under prosecution in the courtroom?

LEBOR: One reason is Milosevic's own obstructionism. He said right at the start of the trial that he doesn't recognize the tribunal. He refused to enter a plea. A plea was entered for him.

So that's one reason why it's gone very slowly, another reason is that it's something very new. You've got a head of state here being charged with genocide. There is a lot of precedence to be set. There are a lot of things to be sorted out, and the tribunal is very, very careful. They want to know that everything is being done properly with due process, because the last thing they want is for their to be some kind of glitch and then the verdict comes out and everyone will say, well, you didn't organize this properly or how can we take you seriously when you did A, B and C.

But there is a legitimate criticism over that it's gone very, very slowly.

ROTH: A couple of other names have not appeared at the tribunal. They have yet to be captured by NATO, by anyone. Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Is this a fiasco? Who is hiding them? What's your thoughts on their freedom?

LEBOR: Well, clearly it's a fiasco. These two men, particularly General Ratko Mladic, are still free. It's a complete fiasco and it's a shame on the international community that they haven't been arrested, because I don't believe Western intelligence services don't know where they are. I mean, they might not know where they are every moment of every day, but they will have a very good idea approximately where they are.

And it's a very strange question as to why they haven't been apprehended. It may be that there is a lack of political will here. It may be there are things going on that we don't know about. But it's -- whatever it is, it's a shame on the international community.

ROTH: Karadzic was psychiatrist. You note that he had unique methods. When he was a psychiatrist he suggested to one husband who was having marital problems to beat his wife more. What do we not know that you can tell us about Radovan Karadzic, the psychiatrist who 12 years ago was across the street here once at -- near -- the United Nations?

LEBOR: Well, the thing about Karadzic is that he was a poet. He wrote sort of quite bad poetry. He was a psychiatrist. But what you have to remember is that to be to psychiatrist in the former Yugoslavia doesn't have the same prestige and cache as to be one, say, in New York now or anywhere else, because under the key system of the former Yugoslavia, all the states, the republics, rather, had to have a certain number of people in the professions. So Montenegro, from where he came, had its quota for psychiatrists, so people who were completely unsuited to be psychiatrists could become a psychiatrist just because they needed X number of psychiatrists from Montenegro.

ROTH: Are prosecutors telling and asking Milosevic in jail, give them up, where are they? What's happened over the last four years?

LEBOR: Well, I don't know if they're making a deal behind the scenes with him. I'm not sure that he knows where they are. But what's happened with Milosevic is just this slow steady process of obstruction. It's a very strange contradiction here because he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the tribunal, but every day he goes to court and he engages with the tribunal. He brings in defense witnesses. He cross-examines people, and so you have this weird process where in fact he's getting the worst of both worlds because I would guess that when he comes to be sentenced, if he is found guilty, the judges are going to remember that he was a very obstructive person and they'll probably put a bit extra on his sentence.

ROTH: What is life behind bars like for the former leader of Serbia?

LEBOR: Well, life behind bars for all of the alleged war criminals from the former Yugoslavia is much more comfortable than it was for the people under their control when they were running detention camps and concentration camps.

They live -- I mean, Dutch prisons are pretty civilized as prisons go. Sure, it's a prison, but they live in comfortable cells. Milosevic has a shower. He has Internet access. He has a television. They're not abused. They're well looked after. They have therapeutic classes, they have pottery classes. They make ashtrays in their pottery classes. They can learn English.

ROTH: What kind of music does he listen to?

LEBOR: Well, he likes to listen to Frank Sinatra. "I did it my way," is one of his favorites. He also likes Celine Dion.

There is a facility for conjugal visits, yes, but Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic is wanted by the Serbian police for questioning in connection with the murder of Ivan Stambolic in the summer of 2000. Stambolic was Milosevic's mentor and best friend and best man at his wedding, and he was murdered after he was talking about running against Milosevic in the pseudo-election of that year.

But, anyway, Mira has gone on the run and it probably in Moscow.

ROTH: So what is his legacy to the people of Serbia?

LEBOR: Milosevic's legacy is a country destroyed, a country wrecked, a country criminalized, a chain of wars that wrecked hundreds of thousands of people's lives and left a train of corpses across the Balkans.

ROTH: Statesman or war criminal?

LEBOR: Both. Statesman in the fact that he was treated as a statesman for many years and he was seen as a bastion of peace deals and, as I said, everyone came to see him and courted him. Anyone like that, however bad a person he is, you cannot deny that they're a statesman. They're treated as a statesman by the international community.

ROTH: He was taken to a shopping mall in Dayton, Ohio --

LEBOR: When he went -- he flew to Dayton in 1995. He was met with his name in flashing lights. "Welcome President Milosevic."

In 1995 it was very well know the wars in Yugoslavia had been going on for four years. The Americans knew full well what the chain of command was, but they treated him as the man who was going to make peace when he was the man who had been making war.

ROTH: Can you describe the different approaches by secretaries of state and other special envoys to these negotiations? Holbrook versus Albright?

LEBOR: Well, Secretary Holbrook took a very belligerent approach and he was the one that kind of slammed the Dayton Accords together, or helped slam it together -- obviously, it wasn't a one-man show.

But the examples of Ambassador Holbrook and Secretary Albright do show that when people are more determined to be involved and they do take a strong line, things do start to happen, because Warren Christopher, for example, was extremely wet and was very much taking a position of we can't get involved, it's nothing to do with us.

But the great turning point was, of course, the Srebrenitza massacre.

ROTH: Which is still being -- people are being brought to the Hague. Do we really know if everyone that has been responsible for the massacre of thousands there in '95, despite the U.N. presence of Dutch soldiers, have they been brought to justice?

LEBOR: Well, not everyone, because clearly the process of killing 7,000 people over several days demands a lot of men and a lot of manpower. Some people have been brought to justice. Some generals have been brought and sentenced for it. But Ratko Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb army, is still free.

ROTH: What about your attempts to talk to Milosevic?

LEBOR: Well, I wrote to Mr. Milosevic, I sent him a copy of one of my books, "Hitler's Secret Bankers," about Swiss banks and Nazi gold. And his lawyer phoned me and said that he couldn't talk to me, but he did authorize me to meet his wife, Mira Markovic, and I spoke to her for three hours.

ROTH: How do you think Milosevic is going to rank in history compared to world despots? Is he someone who is of a lesser rank compared to some of the other brutal crimes committed throughout the history?

LEBOR: Well, I think -- he doesn't rank. I mean, it's very hard to rank people. Clearly, what happened in Yugoslavia was not on the same level as what happened in Cambodia or what happened in Nazi Germany or Rwanda. It wasn't a war of extermination, but it was a war of the destruction of a people. And so for that, you know, he will rank quite highly.

More to the question is why was it allowed to go on for so long.

ROTH: And who was proven right? The U.S. approach, the British approach, regarding Bosnia and Serbia, I mean, lift and strike, the United Nations -- I don't want to go over all the history but --

LEBOR: Well, we had all of these incredible nuances of policy. Lift and strike, arms embargo, secretly funnel arms, do this, do that. The lesson of Milosevic and the Milosevic era and the destruction of Yugoslavia is very simple: men with guns on the ground are stopped by more men with bigger guns on the ground.

When the Bosnian Serbs were finally bombed, the war stopped and they crumbled.

ROTH: And in prison, Milosevic, you write, is still the "rock." People go to him, other inmates?

LEBOR: Yes, he's still called Mr. President. Yes, he still has a lot of respect from the other prisoners. He was even the best man at one of the prisoner's weddings. And, yes, he is treated with respect.

What is interesting is that people inside the prison tell me that there is no real ethnic conflict between the different prisoners. There are Muslims, Serbs and Croats and Kosovo Albanians. In the field, they're killing each other. But in the prison, they revert back to the old Yugoslavia, sitting, chatting, drinking coffee, smoking, no problems.

ROTH: How important is the Milosevic trial for the future?

LEBOR: The Milosevic trial is incredibly important because it set a precedent that a head of state can be charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. A head of state can be taken under armed guard from his own city, Belgrade, from his house and be put in a prison cell and be made to account for what he did and for what the forces under his command did.

It's incredibly important and we see a direct line now from the Hague tribunal to Khartoum, with what is happening in Darfur, because the International Criminal Court is based partly of what happened at the ICTY for Yugoslavia, and I think the people in Khartoum are nervous and should be nervous because Milosevic once considered himself untouchable and a man who was in complete control and look what has happened to him. He's in prison now and he's in court in the dock. And I think the same process could eventually happen to people in Khartoum who are responsible for the atrocities there, in Darfur.

ROTH: Adam, thank you very much for withstanding my questions and the pollen and flowers out here in the U.N. gardens. Adam Lebor is the author of "Milosevic," which we've been talking about, a biography. Slobodan Milosevic still on trial in the Hague years after being dispatched from Belgrade.

We'll have more on DIPLOMATIC LICENSE coming right up.



JEAN PING, U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT: We have been told by the secretariat that the translation is on and it is working. Do you hear me?


ROTH: A message to the world from the General Assembly President Jean Ping. Technical problems, it seems, can halt anything, even 191 countries.

Not far from the United Nations, the New York City borough of Brooklyn has been calling. Can you hear us? Brooklyn is still hoping the United Nations turns to plan B in light of the latest resistance from New York state lawmakers to pay for the new temporary home for the United Nations in Manhattan while renovation of headquarters takes place.

The other day, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz offered the secretary-general of the United Nations a New York tradition.



MARTY MARKOWITZ, BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT: I know that. But you would expect me as the president of Brooklyn to come here and to pitch it, and if I may make this presentation.


ROTH: Kofi Annan didn't look too eager to be accepting anything from Brooklyn or elsewhere. New York state politicians who oppose helping the United Nations say if Annan resigns they would reconsider their rejection of a Manhattan space.

That is DIPLOMATIC LICENSE for this week. I'm Richard Roth in New York. Thanks for watching.



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