Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammad Mehdi Saleh accused the UN sanctions committee on Wednesday of blocking six billion dollars worth of contracts concluded within the framework of the "oil-for-food" program.
Revenues from Iraqi oil sales reached more than 48 billion dollars under the five-year-old program, whose 11th six-month phase started on December 1, Saleh said, quoted by the weekly Alif Baa.
Of this amount, 15 billion dollars worth of food, medicines and other goods had reached Iraq and 18.5 billion dollars had gone to finance UN activities in Iraq and pay reparations for victims of the 1991 Gulf War, he said.
Of the balance, six billion dollars worth of contracts were still blocked by the UN sanctions committee, and nine billion dollars worth of contracts "have been held up for a long time and goods (purchased under these contracts) have yet to arrive," Saleh said.
The UN Office of the Iraq Programme said Tuesday, however, that it had placed on "active" hold 1,529 contracts for the purchase of various humanitarian supplies and equipment worth only 4.37 billion dollars.
There were 146 contracts, worth 273.7 million dollars, in the "inactive holds" category, for which the suppliers had not provided the requested additional technical information in excess of 60 days, the office said.
The "oil-for food" program allows Iraq to sell crude under UN supervision to meet the humanitarian needs of its people, who have been hard hit by the sanctions imposed on the country since Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Iraq says the program does not meet its 22-million population's most basic needs and should not be a substitute for lifting the UN embargo.
It regularly accuses US and British representatives on the sanctions committee of blocking contracts for imports into Iraq -- AFP
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