U.N. Reinstates

Oil-for-Food Official

UNITED NATIONS -- United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday reversed his decision to dismiss the single U.N. official fired for wrongdoing in the $64 billion U.N. oil-for-food program, indicating the punishment was excessive.

Joseph Stephanides was fired June 1, four months before his retirement, after a U.N.-appointed investigator, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, concluded that the Cypriot national improperly steered a contract to a British company. Volcker said in a February report that Stephanides, 60, had "tainted" the procurement process by advising British officials to instruct the British company, Lloyd's Register, to lower a 1996 bid to win a contract to monitor Iraqi imports.

But a U.N. appeals board, the Joint Disciplinary Committee, ruled last week that Stephanides had passed on information that was already publicly available and that his dismissal was "illegal, wrong, unfounded and unjustified." The board said that Stephanides had been made a "sacrificial lamb" to appease U.N. critics and recommended that he be reinstated, compensated for the damage to his reputation, and receive a public apology from Annan.

* ATLANTA -- The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit arguing that a Georgia law exempting only the Bible from sales taxes is discriminatory and should be extended to all publications dealing with the meaning of life.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports