Bakhtyar Amin praised Thursday's report by Paul Volcker, the former head of the US Federal Reserve charged with investigating corruption in the programme, and said it revealed that even UN dignitaries were not above robbing the poor. 

"It shows that some so-called dignitaries had not an iota of shame in their bones, no conscience and no morals," Amin said on Friday. "They profited as parasites on the misery of an impoverished nation." 

The oil-for-food programme, which began in December 1996 and ended in November 2003, allowed Saddam Hussein's government to sell oil to buy humanitarian goods.

Compensation wanted

Amin said: "Those proved to be involved should be rapidly brought to justice." 

Amin said beyond bringing those responsible to justice, it was essential that Iraqis who suffered under Saddam's government and never benefited from oil-for-food as was intended should be recompensed. 

Annan said he will take action
against those involved

"The money that has been stolen from the oil-for-food programme is Iraqi money and has to be paid back to the Iraqi people," he said. "There are too many victims of Saddam who suffered, and they need to be paid compensation. 

"These people shouldn't get away with the money and live the rest of their lives in luxury. A lesson needs to be made of them. They benefited by stealing the bread of others." 

Personal experience

Amin said he personally had experienced the programme's corruption. His father-in-law, a renowned tribal shaikh who was opposed to Saddam and went into exile in Lebanon, was assassinated by Saddam's agents in Beirut in 1994. 

A Lebanese man who helped organise the hit, who Amin said was named in Volcker's report, was granted rights to seven million barrels of oil through the oil-for-food programme as payment for his services, Amin said. 

"The oil-for-food programme was used to fund terrorism, international terrorism," the minister said.