Saturday, January 27, 2007

UN Agency defers North Korea programs

U.N. Development Program agreed not to approve new projects in North Korea until an external audit addresses U.S. allegations that the agency has funneled millions of dollars to the communist regime in violation of United Nations rules.

U.S. deputy ambassador Mark Wallace alleged Friday that the UNDP's North Korea operation had been run "in blatant violation of U.N. rules" for years. He demanded an outside audit focusing on concerns that development funds had been used by Pyongyang for "its own illicit purposes."

The audit, announced Monday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is expected to last three months.

UNDP assistant administrator Ad Melkert said the agency also agreed to end cash payments to the North Korean government and local suppliers and to stop hiring staff recruited by Pyongyang.

UNDP spokesman David Morrison said the agency has spent about $3 million annually in the last 10 years on programs in impoverished North Korea, in addition to about $600,000 in office costs, which include local salaries and supplies. The programs focus on food production, rural and environmental sector management, economic management and social sector management.

Morrison said UNDP international staff have visited nearly all their project sites in the past two years to ensure funds are being used appropriately.


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