US, Britain block more than $10 billion in Iraq contracts
The United States and Britain have held up contracts worth more than $10 billion dollars concluded by Iraq under the UN "oil for food" deal, Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mahdi Saleh said Wednesday.
”This policy is aimed at increasing the suffering of the people and killing the greatest number of Iraqis," Saleh told UN official Benon Sevan, director of the "oil for food" programme. He added that since the programme started in 1996 the United Nations had deducted more than nine billion dollars earned from the oil sales allowed under the deal, while Iraq had acquired goods worth only $7.6 billion.
Iraq has been under UN-imposed economic sanctions since its invasion of Kuwait 10 years ago, but the "oil for food" programme allows it to sell crude in order to buy essential goods under strict UN supervision.
Part of the money also goes to compensate victims of Iraq's invasion, and to pay the UN's expenses in administering the programme.
Baghdad regularly complains that the US and British representatives in the UN sanctions committee, which has to approve all Iraqi contracts, hold up its imports. "The programme has failed, becuase it has not eased the sufferings of the Iraqi people, or satisfied their needs," Saleh told Sevan, who arrived in Baghdad Tuesday to see how the programme was faring. Sevan is to hold discussions with a number of Iraqi officials on the issue, said UN spokesman in Baghdad, George Somerwill.
During his stay, scheduled to last until August 17, Sevan is also to visit the northern Kurdish regions of Iraq which have been outside Baghdad's control since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, he added.
In a pre-arrival statement, Sevan said the United Nations had agreed on a number of "procedural improvements" for the programme. He said the UN sanctions committee has now agreed "on a list of parts and equipment which would be approved by a group of (technical) experts" rather than the committee itself. He added that lists have been drawn up of food, health, educational and agricultural products which would not need to be submitted to the sanctions committee for approval.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)