SOMALI AID Diverted

GENEVA - The World Food Programme yesterday said it would cooperate with an investigation into its operations in Somalia after a report alleged that at least half of its supplies to the war-torn and poverty-stricken country were being diverted by contractors.

GENEVA - The World Food Programme yesterday said it would cooperate with an investigation into its operations in Somalia after a report alleged that at least half of its supplies to the war-torn and poverty-stricken country were being diverted by contractors.

The New York Times reported this week that unscrupulous contractors, radical Islamist militants and even UN staff diverted aid intended for the country's poorest civilians.

"The WFP stands ready to offer full cooperation with any independent inquiry into its work in Somalia," director Josette Sheeran said from the agency's headquarters in Rome, adding it "would welcome an independent investigation".

The agency said in a statement it "would not engage in any new work with three transport contractors named in a report from the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia, which alleged they were involved in arms-trading".

The UN monitoring group report, to be published next week, called for an investigation into the WFP's operations in Somalia, according to The New York Times.

"The integrity of our organization is paramount and we will be investigating each and every issue raised by this report," Sheeran said.

UN officials said not all aspects of the report were correct.

"The WFP was not given an opportunity to check inaccuracies in the report before it was leaked to the media," an official complained.

Somalia, which lacks a viable central government. has been engaged in conflicts since 1991, resulting in thousands of deaths and mass displacement, coming amid a breakdown of the state. - Sapa-dpa

X