(AFP, Baghdad) - Iraq accused the United States and Britain on Tuesday of blocking contracts for the repair of a disused Gulf oil terminal whose start-up would boost export capacity to more than three million barrels per day (bpd).
"US and British representatives on the UN sanctions committee are blocking the approval of contracts allowing the import of equipment for repairing Mina al-Amaya oil terminal”, Oil Minister Amer Rashid told Al-Qadissiya newspaper. "The first contracts signed by Iraq have all been blocked," he said.
Rafed Debuni, head of state-run Southern Petroleum Company, said on June 7 that the offshore terminal, which was damaged during the 1980-1988 war against Iran and destroyed during the 1991 Gulf War, would be in operation "soon" with a loading capacity of 700,000 bpd.
In May, the Middle East Economic Survey reported that Iraq preferred to repair the second terminal rather than reopen a pipeline through Syria to boost its UN-controlled oil exports. Iraq currently uses the Gulf terminal of Mina al-Bakr, west of Mina al-Amaya, that is also in need of repair, and a pipeline running from northern fields through Turkey to the Mediterranean.
Under the oil-for-food accord, Iraq, which has been under embargo since its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, is authorised to export crude in return for essential goods. But a UN sanctions committee has to approve Iraq's contracts with foreign suppliers. Iraq has repeatedly complained of delays in the approval process, pinning the blame on the US and British representatives on the committee, although the United Nations has accelerated the procedure since March.
According to Rashid, the UN sanctions committee has blocked "447 contracts, worth $ 294.9 million, for the oil sector" during phases IV, V and VI of the programme. The director of the UN programme for Iraq, in a statement issued before his visit to Baghdad starting on Tuesday, put the figure at $282 million dollars.
The sanctions committee has now agreed "on a list of parts and equipment which would be approved by a group of (technical) experts" rather than the committee itself, as part of the new "procedural improvements", explained Benon Sevan. He said that in the food, health, education and agriculture sectors, lists have been drawn up of products which would not need to be submitted to the sanctions committee for approval.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )