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Annan To Send U.N. Team To Iraq

The New York Times -- UNITED NATIONS

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday night that he was sending a U.N. team to Iraq “as soon as practicable” to assist in the transfer of power scheduled for June 30.

Letters from the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and the U.S.-administered Coalition Provisional Authority requesting that the United Nations to return to Iraq arrived Thursday morning, and Annan said he would be sending a positive response back overnight.

The letter from the head of provisional authority, L. Paul Bremer, asked that Annan send electoral experts to Iraq next week. The letter from the governing council, several of whose members have in recent days complained about the U.N. role in Iraq, said only that the team should arrive “as soon as possible.”

Annan said the team would be headed by Lakhdar Brahimi, his special envoy to Iraq. Brahimi, 70, Annan’s representative in Afghanistan for the past two years, led a mission to Baghdad last month that set the stage for U.N. involvement in helping shape the interim government to take over.

Shell Masks Details Of Cuts In Nigerian Oil

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group has kept secret important details of its sharp reduction in oil and gas reserves, particularly in Nigeria, for fear of damaging its business relationship with the government there and the Nigerians’ desire to produce more oil, internal company documents show.

While Shell has acknowledged that the biggest adjustments in reserves include those in Nigeria, it continues to conceal the extent of its problems there. But confidential documents from late last year show Shell concluded that more than 1.5 billion barrels, or 60 percent of its Nigerian reserves, did not meet accounting standards for “proven reserves.”

Shell disclosed two months ago that it had overstated its oil and gas reserves by 20 percent, which is equivalent to 3.9 billion barrels of crude oil. On Thursday, it pared its reserves by the equivalent of 250 million barrels more and postponed the publication of its 2003 annual report for two months to complete a review of its oil and gas assets.

Company executives are acutely aware of the potentially explosive political effect of their cutting the estimates of Nigerian reserves. A report dated Dec. 8, 2003, and prepared for senior executives by Walter van de Vijver, then the top official for exploration and production, recommended that the revised Nigerian reserves remain “confidential in view of host country sensitivities.”

North Carolina Asks EPA To Act Against 13 Polluting States

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

In a move that opens a new front in the clean air wars, North Carolina has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on pollution that it says is seeping across its borders from power plants in 13 other states.

If the petition succeeds, states as far away as Michigan would have to cut power plant pollution by more than 50 percent, while states closer to North Carolina would face reductions of 70 percent to 80 percent.

“We believe we have done as much as we could in informal negotiations with other states,” said Roy Cooper, the North Carolina attorney general. “I believe it’s up to the states to move forward to clean our air. I don’t believe we can depend on Washington. We have to do it ourselves.”