ZARAGOZA, Dec 7: French President Jacques Chirac and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero backed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday in the face of criticism over the UN oil-for-food scandal in Iraq.

"They both called Kofi Annan jointly to express their solidarity at a time when he is being unfairly attacked," a Spanish government spokesman told reporters. Zapatero and Chirac, in the northern Spanish city of Zaragoza for a bilateral summit, discussed Annan's situation during a lunch and agreed to telephone him immediately, he said.

Mr Annan, winner of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, has come under scrutiny over the $64 billion oil-for-food programme for Iraq, administered by the UN and supervized by the 15-nation Security Council.

Annan's son Kojo worked in West Africa for a Swiss firm, Cotecna, which inspected goods under the programme and is under investigation. There is no evidence so far the younger Annan dealt with the Iraq programme. The French and Spanish position contrasts with that of US President George W. Bush's government. -Reuters

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