Powell Lauds UN Chief, In First U.S. Defense

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Colin Powell called Kofi Annan a "good" U.N. secretary-general on Friday, after days in which Washington chose not to defend the diplomat against a U.S. senator's demand he resign. was unclear whether Powell's comments signaled genuine support for Annan, under fire over suspected corruption in the U.N.'s now-defunct Iraq oil-for-food humanitarian program, or simply aimed to soften the widespread impression Washington has no great desire to back the U.N. chief.

"Secretary-General Annan is a good secretary-general," Powell told Reuters in the first positive comment about Annan from a top U.S. official since Sen. Norm Coleman (news, bio, voting record), a Minnesota Republican investigating the program, said he should resign because of the suspected oil-for-food abuses.

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