Iraq slammed the United Nations-administered oil-for-food program Friday, saying it did not meet the most basic of needs of the Iraqi people.
"The program has been incapable of stopping not only the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Iraq but also of responding to the most basic needs" of Iraqis, the Iraqi delegation to the UN said in a statement carried by the official INA news agency.
The statement said more than 1,660 contracts for farm equipment, health supplies and food worth 3.3 billion dollars had been blocked under the program.
According to the Iraqi delegation, "Iraq has exported crude worth 38.3 billion dollars but has only received products worth 9.7 billion dollars in return."
The oil-for-food program was introduced in 1996 to soften the Iraqi people's suffering under the economic embargo imposed since Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Under the program, Iraq is authorized to export crude -- with the revenues paid into a UN escrow account -- to finance imports of humanitarian supplies.
The UN Security Council has to approve Iraq's contracts for humanitarian items to ensure that the goods do not also serve a military purpose.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Iraq on Tuesday to raise its oil exports to previous levels to ensure there was enough money for the program.
Annan noted that, since the Security Council removed the ceiling on Iraq's authorized oil exports in December 1999, the government "is indeed in a position to reduce current malnutrition levels and improve the health status of the Iraqi people."
But, he said, while chronic malnutrition rates had fallen in the three northern provinces of Iraq -- where UN agencies cater for the needs of the largely Kurdish population -- incidence of malnutrition remained high in government-held areas -- BAGHDAD (AFP)
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