Security Council approves increased aid for Iraq

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Fri Dec 8 17:11:19 MST 2000

7 December 2000

Security Council approves increased aid for Iraq
UNITED NATIONS: The Security Council unanimously approved a major increase
in humanitarian aid for ordinary Iraqis trying to cope with a decade of UN
sanctions and $530 million to improve the country's ailing oil industry.
But it isn't the no-strings-attached money that Iraq wanted. And whether
Baghdad ultimately gets it will depend on its cooperation with the United
Nations, which is required to monitor how the funds are spent.
Racing against the clock, a divided Security Council reached a compromise
less than four hours before the UN humanitarian program for Iraq was set to
expire at midnight on Tuesday - and members anxiously waited another hour
for the United States to sign off on the deal.
Under the four-year-old UN oil-for-food program, Iraq is allowed to sell
oil, provided the money goes for food, medicine and other humanitarian
supplies, and equipment to rebuild its frayed oil infrastructure. The
program was launched to help Iraqis cope with sanctions imposed to punish
Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Iraq's supporters on the council - France, China, Russia and Malaysia -
complained that the resolution didn't go far enough in helping the Iraqis.
China and Malaysia called for the early lifting of sanctions, arguing that
the oil-for-food program was never meant to meet all the humanitarian needs
of the Iraqi people. France complained that the resolution did not authorise
$15 million to pay Baghdad's UN dues, although it did raise the possibility
of doing so in the future. And Russia, China and France, called for concrete
measures to reduce the number of contracts placed on hold, mainly by the
United States, which they said had increased the suffering of the people.
The United States countered that the oil-for-food program was working and
the problem was not lack of resources. It accused Iraq of sacrificing $800
million in recent weeks which could have helped its people - $500 million
lost after it stopped oil exports on last Thursday and $300 million which
was the price to convert its oil payments from dollars to euros.
Calling on Iraq to cooperate with the United Nations, deputy US Ambassador
James Cunningham expressed satisfaction that the resolution will ensure
continued UN control over Iraq's oil revenues and deny Baghdad access "to
funds it would use to further threaten its neighbours."
The resolution adopted on Tuesday night extends the oil-for-food program for
six months and increases the funds available for humanitarian purposes by 5
percent to 58 per cent - earmarking the additional money for the most
vulnerable Iraqis.
In an attempt to expedite shipments of humanitarian aid, the resolution also
establishes lists of pre-approved items, and it exempts contracts for
electricity and housing supplies from mandatory approval by the UN committee
which monitors sanctions -though not telecommunications and transport
equipment as France wanted.
The key compromise was on the issue of whether Iraq could receive cash to
pay for oil industry costs as France proposed - or whether all sectors of
the Iraqi economy could benefit from a cash infusion as the United States
and Britain wanted.
In the compromise, the council asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to make
arrangements to allow oil-for-food funds to be used by Iraq to buy locally
produced goods for civilian needs, and to allow up to 600 million euros
($530 million) to be used to pay for maintaining and improving the country's
oil industry. The resolution adds a requirement that the Security Council
approve the arrangements - a move diplomats say the Iraqis are likely to
oppose because it would give the United States a veto.
A year ago, the council authorised Iraq to use oil-for-food revenue to buy
food and other locally produced goods - but Baghdad refused, saying it
didn't want any oil money going into the hands of UN agencies and voluntary
groups that administer the program. On the other hand, Iraq has been pushing
for cash to pay for oil industry maintenance, training and installations.
In another compromise, all references to smuggling oil and petroleum
products - which the United States and Britain wanted but Russia and China
opposed - were dropped. Iraq is believed to smuggle hundreds of millions of
dollars in petroleum products every year. The resolution also dropped all
references to the resolution adopted by the council last December which
created a new UN weapons inspection agency - a measure Iraq vehemently
Under council resolutions, sanctions cannot be lifted until UN inspectors
certify that Iraq's weapons programs have been dismantled. Iraq is demanding
the immediate lifting of sanctions, and has barred UN weapons inspectors,
who pulled out ahead of US and British air strikes in December 1998, from
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