updated 6/1/2005 1:20:05 PM ET 2005-06-01T17:20:05

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan fired a staffer for his role in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal, a spokesman said Wednesday, describing the first dismissal stemming from alleged corruption in the multibillion-dollar program.

Joseph Stephanides, dismissed Tuesday, was the first U.N. official said to be fired in the wake of an independent probe into allegations of wrongdoing in the $64 billion program.

The United Nations had accused Stephanides, head of the U.N. Security Council Affairs Division, of interfering in the competitive bidding process for an oil-for-food contract.

Annan concluded that Stephanides had committed “serious misconduct,” U.N. associate spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“Mr. Stephanides was advised accordingly yesterday and was separated from service with immediate effect,” Dujarric said.

The probe, led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, had accused two other U.N. staff members of wrongdoing in the program, established to help ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein’s government after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Under the program, Iraq was allowed to sell oil, provided the proceeds were used primarily to buy humanitarian goods, including food and medicine.

U.N. action against former oil-for-food chief Benon Sevan has been suspended until Volcker’s probe finishes its work. Sevan was accused of a “grave conflict of interest” in soliciting oil deals from Iraq.

Also, Dileep Nair, the now-retired chief of the U.N. watchdog agency, allegedly paid an employee with money from the program even though the staffer’s work was not directly tied to it. Annan sent a letter expressing disappointment but took no action.

Stephanides, head of the U.N. Security Council Affairs Division, had been accused of tainting the competitive bidding process for a company to inspect humanitarian goods entering Iraq under the program.

His contacts with an unnamed U.N. mission — which a U.N. committee acquiesced to for political reasons — led to Lloyd’s Register Inspection Ltd. winning the contract even though there was a lower bidder, it said.

Reached by The Associated Press after the announcement was made, Stephanides rejected the charges and said he would file an appeal shortly.

“I am very disappointed by this decision,” Stephanides said. “I look to the appeal process in the confident hope that justice will be made and I will be exonerated because I have committed no wrongdoing.”

Stephanides, 59, had planned to retire in September, when he turns 60.

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