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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 22:33 GMT
UN reverses oil-for-food sacking
Joseph Stephanides (file photo)
Joseph Stephanides had been due to retire when he was sacked
The only United Nations official sacked over the Iraq oil-for-food scandal has been reinstated after a UN appeals panel ruled he had done nothing wrong.

Joseph Stephanides was fired in May for allegedly interfering in the competitive bidding process.

Investigators said he had divulged bidding information but did not suggest he had personally benefited.

While accepting his punishment was too harsh, the UN still insists he violated staff rules, and he plans a new appeal.

The BBC's Susannah Price says the decision to reverse the dismissal of Mr Stephanides will obviously be embarrassing for the UN.

They just maintain their decision that he did something wrong
George Irving
lawyer for Joseph Stephanides

According to the letter issued to Mr Stephanides on behalf of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:

"The sanction that was imposed on you has been reconsidered in light of all the circumstances in the case and the principle of proportionality...

"It has been decided to rescind the decision to summarily dismiss you and to pay you your salary from the date of your summary dismissal to the date of your retirement [due at the end of September]."

But the letter went on to say the UN still considered that Mr Stephanides had violated procurement rules and a note of written censure would be placed in his file.

New appeal

Mr Annan was not obliged to abide by the decision of the UN internal appeals panel - the Joint Disciplinary Committee (JDC) - which last month ruled Mr Stephanides should be reinstated, issued a written apology and paid about US $200,000 for emotional suffering and damage to his reputation.

A lawyer for the reinstated official said the fact that Mr Annan still considered his client to have done something wrong was not satisfactory.

"They just maintain their decision that he did something wrong," said George Irving.

Mr Irving said a further appeal would be made to the UN's Administrative Tribunal - the body's highest appeals body whose rulings are binding, unlike those of the JDC.

Mr Stephanides earlier argued he had been acting under the instructions of a UN Security Council sanctions committee when dealing with bidders.

The JDC ruled that he had been used as a "sacrificial lamb".

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