The value of import contracts blocked by the UN's Iraqi sanctions committee has for first time risen above two billion dollars, the United Nations said Tuesday.
The total includes more than 1.72 billion dollars worth of contracts for humanitarian supplies put on hold since May 1998, notably in the transport and telecommunications and the electricity sectors.
Contracts worth 271 million dollars for oil spare parts and equipment had been placed on hold, the office administering the oil-for-food program said in its weekly update.
In the same period, the committee had approved 8.08 billion dollars worth of orders for humanitarian supplies and another 1.11 billion worth of oil industry imports, the office said.
"The total value of contracts on hold in all sectors has reached two billion dollars," the office said.
A very small number of holds date back before May 1998, the start of the fourth 180-day phase of the program. The program is now just over half-way through its eighth phase.
More than 45 percent of contracts in the transport and telecommunications sector had been put on hold, together with almost 36 percent of electricity sector orders, the office of the Iraq program said.
"The reasons given by members of the committee for putting a contract on hold vary," it added.
"Over 45 percent lack essential technical specifications," it said, while another 21 percent included goods with a potential dual use.
A total of 799 humanitarian contracts with a combined value of more than 1.87 billion dollars had been expedited under new "fast track" procedures, it said.
Another 49 contracts worth more than 34.6 million dollars had been expedited in the oil sector, it said.
The procedures were introduced in March for the food, education, medical and agricultural sectors, after criticisms that the sanctions 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 Security Council instructed the committee to streamline its vetting procedures when it overhauled its sanctions regime in December 1999.
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 programme said that in the week to September 22, Iraq exported 18.1 million barrels oil for revenue estimated at 481 million dollars.
Since the start of the current 180-day phase of the programme on June 9, Iraq had exported 220.1 million barrels of oil worth around 5.5 billion dollars, it said -- UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
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