Iraqis Say Extension of Humanitarian Program Unwelcome Necessity
A UN Security Council extension of a humanitarian program in Iraq, secured after acrimonious debate, drew criticism Friday by some Iraqis who receive food from the program, reported The Associated Press.
Bitterness after a decade under the strict sanctions - imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait - has made the Oil-for-Food program an unwelcome necessity, the agency said.
The program allows Iraq to buy certain staples with oil proceeds, and guarantees Iraqi citizens a monthly food basket of rice, sugar, cooking oil and other staples.
According to UN resolutions, the embargo cannot be lifted until UN weapons inspectors report Iraq has destroyed its banned weapons of mass destruction.
Waiting in the shade of a tree to receive her June rations, Fadhila Aboud recalled the 1998 visit by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He had urged Iraq to allow UN weapons inspectors into presidential palaces, and Iraq complied, Aboud said.
Annan "asked us to bow to the American and British pressure - which he already had bowed to - with promises that everything will be over soon," the 58-year-old retired teacher told the agency.
"We did not expect his soon to be so long."
Six-month extensions of the oil-for-food program have been routine since it began in 1996. But what should have been a perfunctory vote Thursday erupted into acrimonious debate at UN headquarters in New York, with Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov and deputy Chinese Ambassador Shen Guofang blasting the sanctions.
Lavrov also criticized US-British airstrikes against Iraq. The two allies set up no-fly zones in Iraq after the Gulf War “to protect minorities and anti-government forces from Baghdad's military,” and have bombed Iraq often for what they said were “violations of the zones.”
US and British officials defended their policies, saying the air strikes have been too limited to impact Iraq's overall humanitarian situation.
Eventually, the Security Council agreed to extend the aid program and to authorize a study on the humanitarian situation in the country, said AP.
"It is as if the Security Council is telling super powers the turf is yours, and have no worry for those affected directly by such resolutions," Raouf al-Waedeh, a 70-year-old Baghdad University professor said Friday.
Extra oil revenues this month meant that Iraqis found slightly more in their food baskets this week. But that didn't ease 30-year-old Salah Adnan's annoyance with the program.
"No, I am not happy about the increase," said Adnan, waiting to collect his family's rations. “What we want is to be left alone."
Iraqi trade minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh was quoted in Cairo as saying the program had "failed to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people."
Egypt's Middle East News Agency (MENA) quoted Saleh as saying Iraq has exported oil worth $29 billion since the program started, but has been able to access only $7 billion. The remaining money, he said, paid for UN expenses in Iraq and for compensating victims of the 1991 Gulf War - part of the terms of the Oil-for-Food deal, according to AP - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)