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News Briefs

Swiss Firm Suspected of Fraud Paid U.N. Chief’s Son $50,000

A Swiss company that is being investigated on suspicion of fraud and abuses in the United Nations’ oil-for-food program paid the son of Secretary-General Kofi Annan more than $50,000 for consulting at U.N. meetings and other projects in the year it won an oil-for-food contract, investigators said Thursday.

Representatives of the company, Cotecna Inspection Services, based in Geneva, previously said that Kojo Annan, the secretary-general’s son, had no involvement in any U.N. contracts.

But billing records from Kojo Annan, 29, and other documents provided by Cotecna to House and Senate committees investigating the U.N. program show that in 1998, he traveled to U.N. meetings in New York and South Africa to develop “contacts” and work on unspecified “specific projects.” In December 1998, Cotecna, which is privately held, won a $4.8 million U.N. contract to monitor goods shipped to Iraq.

The trips were reported Thursday in The New York Post.

Ginny Wolfe, a spokeswoman for Cotecna, confirmed that Kojo Annan had attended these meetings but said that he had done so “to make contacts and build relationships with individuals who were important to know for purposes of Cotecna business marketing in Africa.”

A Cotecna statement said it was “confident” that the inquiries “will reveal that Cotecna’s actions were at all times ethical, lawful and professional.”

Random Violence Continues In Iraq

Mortar rounds exploded in five places in central Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing two Iraqis and wounding 14 in disparate attacks that underscored the capital’s vulnerability to insurgent violence as the January elections approach.

The attacks, breaking a period of relative calm in Baghdad, coincided with continuing violence in other parts of the country. In the northern city of Mosul, an American soldier was killed in a gunbattle on Thursday afternoon, said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a military spokesman. American and Iraqi forces there discovered 14 bodies, including three wearing uniforms of the Iraqi National Guard.

The new bodies bring to at least 90 the number found in and around Mosul in the last two weeks, many of them Iraqi police and national guard officers killed by insurgents aiming to intimidate the country’s fledgling security forces.

In Bayji, an oil refining city in northern Iraq repeatedly struck by insurgent sabotage, two American soldiers and two Iraqi national guardsmen were wounded when a car bomb exploded at a national guard checkpoint on Thursday morning, said Master Sgt. Robert Cowens, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.