The Iraqi leadership on Saturday hinted it would resume crude exports under the UN oil-for-food program, while criticizing the Security Council's renewal of the four-year-old deal.
It also said Iraq wanted to set aside one billion euros ($900 million ) of its oil revenues to support the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.
A joint meeting of the decision-making Revolutionary Command Council and ruling Baath party, chaired by President Saddam Hussein, said the program was no substitute for a lifting of the decade-old sanctions on Iraq.
The deal was "supposed to be a temporary programme... but the United States and Britain are exploiting it as an alternative to a lifting of the embargo", a government spokesman said after the meeting.
"The (Security) Council has failed to meet its commitments to Iraq contained in its own resolutions," he charged, quoted by the official news agency INA.
But the Iraqi leadership hinted it would resume exports, suspended since December 1 in a row over a pricing formula for exports, by saying Baghdad wanted one billion euros to be set aside for the Palestinians.
"The meeting decided to set aside one billion euros of Iraq's oil revenues over one year" to support the Palestinians in their uprising against Israel, the spokesman said.
He gave a breakdown of 300 million euros for the families of dead and wounded Palestinians, and those whose property has been damaged in the conflict. The rest would go toward buying food, medicine and other essential goods.
Arab leaders at an October 21-22 summit in Cairo decided to set up two solidarity funds for the Palestinians worth a total of one billion dollars.
In a message to the Palestinian people, Saddam said the Iraqi donation was to underline Baghdad's support for the Palestinian cause "despite its own great need" for the funds.
"Iraq is setting the example for the Arabs to follow suit," he said. "It's a slap in the face for those who put their money at the service of America and Zionism," he said, in an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which support the US military containment of Iraq.
On Friday, the United Nations said its oil overseers had resolved the disagreement with Iraq over pricing that led Baghdad to cut off exports of between 2.3 and 2.4 million barrels of crude a day.
The overseers recommended that the UN's Iraq sanctions committee accept a new pricing formula proposed by the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO), UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said. Iraq has been under sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
But the oil-for-food program,launched in December 1996, allows Iraq in sixth-monthly phases to export crude under UN supervision to finance imports of essential goods for its 22-million population.
The eighth phase of the program ran out on December 5. Iraq has since been studying the Security Council's decision to extend the humanitarian program until June and improve its vetting procedures to speed up the delivery of supplies.
The Council also agreed in principle to release up to 600 million euros ($540 million) of the oil income in cash from a tightly controlled UN escrow account to train and pay maintenance workers in Iraq's dilapidated oil industry.
In another modification, the Security Council formalized an earlier decision to reduce from 30 to 25 percent the proportion that goes into a compensation fund for victims of the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)