The UN's Iraqi sanctions committee has approved $1.792 billion worth of contracts under streamlined vetting procedures since March, the United Nations said Tuesday.
But the value of humanitarian contracts put on hold by the committee had risen to $1.974 billion, the office administering the oil-for-food program said in its weekly update.
Holds on 12 contracts in the housing and agricultural sectors with a combined value of $18.9 million were lifted last week, it said.
New "fast track" procedures were introduced in March for contracts in these sectors, together with food, education and medicine, after criticisms that the committee was unreasonably blocking Iraq's imports.
The list of contracts which the committee can approve on a notification basis was later extended to basic water and sanitation supplies.
The program was set up in December 1996 to enable Iraq to sell crude oil under UN supervision and to import essential supplies to ease the impact of the sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.
The Office of the Iraq Program said it had notified the committee of 762 humanitarian supply contracts worth $1.792 billion.
Another 46 contracts worth almost 34 million had been expedited in the oil sector, it said.
The office said the committee had blocked $1.7 billion worth of contracts for humanitarian supplies since the start of the fourth phase of the program in May 1998.
In the same period, it had approved $7.98 billion worth of orders for such supplies, the office said.
It said holds on contracts to import spare parts and other equipment for Iraq's ailing oil industry amounted to $266 million in that period, while 2,129 contracts worth over $1.1 billion had been approved.
"The total value of contracts on hold in all sectors is now $1.974 billion," it said.
The Security Council instructed the committee to streamline its vetting procedures when it overhauled its sanctions regime in December.
At the time, the council decided to remove the financial ceiling on the amount of crude oil Iraq was allowed to export.
The Office of the Iraq program said that in the week to September 15, Iraq exported 16.8 million barrels oil for revenue estimated at $490 million.
Since the start of the current 180-day phase of the program on June 9, the revenue from Iraq's oil sales was over $5.1 billion, it said.— (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
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