Iraq Rejects One-Month Extension to Oil-for-Food Program
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz summoned the ambassadors of Russia, China and Tunisia on Friday, informing them of Baghdad's rejection of the United Nations' one-month extension to the oil-for-food program, reported the Associated Press.
The full 15-member UN Security Council on Thursday agreed to extend the program to give council members more time to study a British "smart sanctions" proposal. The extension was expected to be adopted Friday.
Aziz told the ambassadors that adopting the extension "will not inflict damage on Iraq alone, but also on its Arab and friendly partners."
The extension was based on parts of the "smart sanctions" proposal which Iraq has already rejected, he said, cited by the AP.
Russia and China are among the five veto-wielding permanent members on the Security Council, while Tunisia occupies a non-permanent seat in the council.
The council gave final approval Friday to a resolution that would extend the current oil-for-food program, due to expire June 4, through early July so members can hash out their differences over a US-British proposal to overhaul the Iraq sanctions.
According to the New York Times, the meeting on Wednesday in Budapest among Secretary of State Colin Powell and his counterparts from Britain, France and Russia appears to have resulted in a compromise to extend the existing "oil-for-food" program for Iraq for a much shorter period than Russia had been seeking.
Under the “smart sanctions,” the United Nations would ease restrictions on most of Iraq's civilian imports, while continuing to screen goods that could be used by President Saddam Hussein's military, in particular weapons of mass destruction.
Although the resolution marks a formal acknowledgment that the 15-member Security Council will not close a deal before the June 4 deadline, as the Bush administration had hoped, it also represents progress toward building a consensus among the five permanent members with veto power, Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States, said the Post.
It said the resolution was introduced by Russia, which until this week had refused to participate in negotiations over a new sanctions program and insisted until two days ago on a standard, six-month renewal of the current sanctions.
"It's really quite an achievement. It's a basic agreement on the new framework," a US official said.
What remains lacking, however, is an agreement over the list of items that will continue to be restricted. The United States has sought to add a range of "dual use" goods, which have both civilian and military applications, to existing lists of banned items that have previously been accepted by the international community.
France has balked at what it sees as an overly restrictive list, while Russia had demanded more time for its experts to conduct a highly technical review. China had also objected, according to the report.
"We need to do a lot of hard work still to fill in the details, and that is what we will do over the next 30 days," said US Ambassador to the UN James B. Cunningham.
An agreement over the outlines of a new program was obtained by Powell in talks this week with his British, French and Russian counterparts in Budapest, where they were attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, according to senior State Department officials.
By agreeing to a relatively short, 30-day extension, US and European officials said they would maintain momentum toward a radical restructuring of the sanctions, which were imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The resolution also embodies the existing Security Council requirement that Iraq cannot be entirely free of sanctions until it is cleared by UN weapons inspectors. France, Russia and China had abstained when this requirement last came up for a vote in 1999, but all five permanent members indicated yesterday that they would support the new resolution.
Iraq immediately threatened again to cut off oil production if the extension is adopted. The program is usually renewed every six months.
"Iraq will not deal with it," Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri told reporters Thursday as the council met on the extension. "Consequently Iraq will not conclude any oil contract based on it, and this resolution will be for us just another dead resolution.” – Albawaba.com
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