Sunday, June 10, 2007

UN under fire over misuse of aid to North Korea

About $ 3 million of United Nations money aimed at helping impoverished North Koreans was instead used by the Pyongyang Government to buy property in France, Britain and Canada, the US State Department says.

"At first glance the allegations do not correspond with our own records, which we have scrutinised extremely closely in the past six months," a spokesman, David Morrison, said. Mr Morrison said the agency bought computers, GPS equipment and a spectrometer for forecasting weather patterns in flood- and drought-prone areas of the country.

A spokesman for the US mission to the UN, Ric Grenell, said the information indicated "an apparent misuse and diversion" of program funds, business dealings with "certain suspect entities affiliated with" North Korea, the program's procurement of "potential dual-use equipment" and information related to the further use of counterfeit US currency in North Korea.

But the State Department has not made public any documents to back up its accusations, and [the UN Ambassador] has declined to release details of the department's investigation.

The revelations come at a sensitive moment, as the Bush Administration has been working closely with other countries, particularly Russia, to arrange a transfer of $US24 million in tainted North Korean money to aid an agreement to shut down North Korea's nuclear reactor.

[Excerpt of an article by Glenn Kessler and Colum Lynch, The Washington Post]

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