updated 12/9/2004 5:55:28 PM ET 2004-12-09T22:55:28

The United States expressed confidence in Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday and said he should remain as the head of the United Nations, an abrupt turnaround from its refusal to back him last week after a U.S. senator called for his resignation.

The statement from U.S. Ambassador John Danforth, who said he was speaking on behalf of the Bush administration, aligned the United States with the 190 other members of the United Nations.

“We are not suggesting or pushing for the resignation of the secretary-general,” Danforth said. “We have worked well with him in the past and look forward to working with him for some time in the future.”

The call for Annan’s resignation last week by Sen. Norm Coleman made headlines worldwide and led to an outpouring of support for Annan. The leaders of Britain, France, Russia, Germany and other countries telephoned the secretary-general to personally give him their backing.

President Bush twice refused to support the secretary-general, stressing that he wanted a thorough, impartial investigation of allegations of fraud and corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq. Danforth took the same position but said Tuesday he had “great confidence” in Annan.

In his statement Thursday, Danforth said, “essentially it is a criminal investigation” and investigators must determine whether anyone is guilty of bribery, payoffs and corruption.

“There is a cloud over the U.N. There is no doubt about that. And the only way to dispel that cloud is let the sunlight in,” Danforth said.

“We are not using the whole thing to push out the secretary-general,” he stressed.

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