India hopes to boost trade with Iraq under the U.N. oil-for-food program to $1 billion in 2001 from $650 million, the official Iraqi News Agency quoted the Indian ambassador to Baghdad as saying on January 24th.
The ambassador was also quoted as saying that: “Agreements signed during a visit to India by Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan last November helped to open new prospects for constructive and fruitful cooperation.”
New Delhi currently imports about 20,000 b/d of Iraqi crude under the humanitarian program, which allows Iraq to sell unlimited quantities of oil in exchange for food and medicine.
The two countries had signed an oil-for-wheat trade agreement during Ramadan’s visit that would provide India with 300,000 b/d of oil in exchange for goods and services, including wheat and rice.
Indian diplomats indicated that the deal must be approved by the U.N. sanctions committee under Article 50 of the U.N. charter, which allows countries that experience economic difficulties resulting from sanctions imposed by the U.S. or any other state to consult the Security Council with regard to a solution of those problems.
India has not yet submitted a request for a waiver of the sanctions in place against Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, but U.N. diplomats have suggested that it is unlikely that India will be able to demonstrate sufficient economic hardship as a result of sanctions against Baghdad to be granted such a reprieve.
In another sign of improving trade relations with Baghdad, a Saudi official said on January 23rd that Riyadh expects to receive U.N. approval soon to establish an office at its border with Iraq to increase trade with Baghdad under the oil-for-food program.
The office, which would be set up at Ar’ar in northern Saudi Arabia, is expected to boost Saudi exports to Iraq to $600 million in 2001 from $200 million in 2000.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )