French Ambassador: I Worked for the Iraqis

Posted by John Rosenthal

Former French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Bernard Mérimée is currently under investigation by French judicial authorities for "influencing peddling and corruption of public officials" in connection with the UN Oil for Food program in Iraq. Yesterday’s Le Figaro includes a highly revealing article summarizing Mérimée’s declarations to French investigative judge Philippe Courroye. According to Le Figaro, quoting directly from the transcript of Mérimée’s declarations, Mérimée admitted to having received a payment of some $156,000 as part of a transaction in which he served as mediator between the Iraqi authorities represented by Tariq Aziz and the Fenar Petroleum Company based in Liechtenstein. "Jean-Bernard Mérimée attributed Baghdad’s generosity to gratitude," Le Figaro notes:

"Tariq Aziz was grateful for the interest that I showed in Iraq and for the advice I had given him." Before the judge, although contrite, he declared that in his view he had worked for Tariq Aziz and "all effort deserves compensation" [toute peine mérite salaire].

The Le Figaro piece adds:

At no time did the diplomat have the feeling of acting without the knowledge of the Quai d’Orsay [the French Foreign Ministry]. "When I went to Baghdad…," he explained to the judge, "I met the French Ambassador in Jordan." And he affirms that in Baghdad he paid a visit to the head of the French interests section after having seen Tariq Aziz.

In a pattern that has become all too familiar, apart from
the notable exception of The Telegraph, the English-language press seems to be ignoring these revelations. (The Telegraph piece is also reprinted in today’s NY Sun.)

Mérimée presently holds the title of a French "Ambassador for Life". He was France’s Ambassador to the UN from 1991-1995, in which capacity he was one of the principal architects of the Oil for Food program.
An article in yesterday’s USA Today on the Oil for Food scandal starts: "It began with the best of intentions…."

It is also worth noting that, as
the investigations of Claudia Rosett have revealed (hat tip: politique arabe de la france), Mérimée served from 1999 until 2002 as a liaison between the European Commission and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, his official title being "Special Adviser of the Secretary-General for European issues". It was during this period that, in his own assessment, he "worked" for the Iraqis.

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