UN Humanitarian Chief Heads to Iraq for Two-Week Visit
The head of the UN humanitarian program for Iraq arrives in Baghdad on Tuesday for a two-week working visit, reported The Associated Press.
Benon Sevan, executive director of the UN Office of the Iraq Program, is scheduled to meet senior government representatives in Iraq and heads of UN agencies involved in implementing the Oil-for-Food program, UN deputy spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said Monday.
The Oil-for-Food program, started in 1996, allows Iraq to sell oil under UN financial controls, with more than half of the proceeds going to fund UN humanitarian programs in Iraq, 30 percent to Gulf War reparations and the rest to spare parts used in oil production and to UN operations.
While the Oil-for-Food program "is no substitute for the resumption of normal economic activity in Iraq," Sevan said, "there is no doubt the situation for many in that country is significantly better than it was when the first oil was exported under the program at the end of 1996."
Under Security Council resolutions, some $16 billion has been spent or earmarked for humanitarian programs in central and southern Iraq and $4 billion in northern Iraq, he said.
"This is by far the largest humanitarian program ever administered by the United Nations," he said.
The Security Council in December approved a new Iraq policy lifting the $5.2 billion ceiling on Iraqi oil sales for a six-month period.
Sevan said revenue in the latest six-month period, which ended in June, was $8.28 billion, added the AP.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has approved a distribution plan submitted by the Iraqi government for the next phase, which runs from June to December, calling for total spending of $7.1 billion - of which $6.5 billion goes for humanitarian needs - the Office of the Iraq Program said Monday.
Sevan's visit, his fourth to Iraq since his appointment in October 1997, also coincides with a visit by former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, a former US Marine who is making a documentary film on Iraq's disarmament.
Once scathingly criticized by the Iraqi government because of his strong support for intrusive weapons inspections, he is now being welcomed because of his support for lifting UN economic sanctions, said the agency - Albawaba.com
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