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U.N. Drug Board Member Resigns

June 11, 1998

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Colombia’s federal prosecutor has resigned from the U.N. board that combats narcotics trafficking following concerns of a possible conflict of interest.

Alfonso Gomez Mendez, who once defended a former foreign minister implicated in Colombia’s biggest drug scandal, stepped down last month, said the president of the International Narcotics Control Board, Hamid Ghodse of Britain.

Ghodse said Gomez resigned because of his ``extremely tight work schedule.″

However, the U.N. legal office was concerned Gomez’s service as federal prosecutor might impair his impartiality.

Gomez joined the board last year. Soon after he was appointed Colombia’s federal prosecutor, replacing Alfonso Valdivieso, an anti-corruption crusader whose investigations nearly toppled President Ernesto Samper.

Before assuming the prosecutor’s job, Gomez successfully defended Rodrigo Pardo, a former foreign minister suspected of helping cover up evidence of drug money donations to Samper’s campaign.

The drug board has not chosen a successor to fill Gomez’ term, which runs through 2002.

A Colombian or a representative from the region would be the natural choice, said Herbert Schaerpe, secretary of the Vienna-based board, who joined Ghodse at a news conference during the U.N. General Assembly special session on drugs.

The narcotics board is one of the least known but most powerful U.N. organizations. It works with governments to determine what drugs should be declared illegal. It also helps regulate chemicals that are not banned but can be used to manufacture illicit drugs.

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