Iraq no longer considers itself bound by the oil-for-food program after the UN renewed the humanitarian program for only one month as opposed to its customary six-month renewal, an Iraqi foreign ministry official said Saturday, June 9.
"The UN has violated the letter of this agreement in prolonging it by one month instead of six," said Naji Al-Hadithi, state minister at Iraq's foreign ministry, to reporters. "When a party violates its commitments this means that the agreement has been broken and Iraq will act in consequence," Hadithi said. "Iraq believes itself equally exempt as of all engagements within the body of this agreement have been revoked" by the UN, he said.
On June 1, the UN Security Council agreed to a one-month roll over of the oil-for-food program, while the council debated British and US efforts to push through a revised form of the economic sanctions, which have been enforced against Baghdad since its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Iraq retaliated by halting all sales from the oil-for-food program as of June 4, which amount to an estimated 2.4 million barrels per day.
The British and US-sponsored "smart sanctions" would lift restrictions on the flow of civilian goods entering Iraq, but keep a ban on items with a military use, as well as stamping out the smuggling of oil.
The oil-for-food program, in operation since late 1996, permits the sale of Iraqi oil under the supervision of the UN in order to provide humanitarian aid for Iraq's general population. However, the program has come under attack internationally for the Security Council's delays and blocks on items purchased for Iraq's civilian population, based on the argument the purchased items have a dual military use.
Hadithi said Iraq would be in favor of renewing the program on the condition that the UN "does not advance or add new conditions." He explained the one-month extension of the program "signified a stop to the agreement because in imposing such a resolution on the UN, the United States and Britain were modifying an agreement that the UN had passed with Iraq."
Hadithi emphasized the flow of oil to its neighbors ― Jordan, Syria and Turkey ― outside of UN controls would continue, unless the countries decide to support the US and British sanctions campaign.
Iraq delivers some five million tons of oil per year to Jordan through a special UN exemption, while an estimated 100,000 bpd is smuggled to Turkey and an estimated 150,000 bpd flows into Syria via a pipeline.
Meanwhile, Iraqi parliament speaker Saddun Hammadi lashed out Saturday at the British and US-backed "smart" sanctions as a ploy to place the Iraqi people under the "permanent tutelage" of the United Nations.
In talks with former UN aid coordinator Hans von Sponeck who has turned into an anti-sanctions campaigner, Hammadi said the new regime aimed "to place the Iraqi people under the permanent tutelage of the United Nations," the official INA news agency reported.
Newspapers also made clear Baghdad's rejection of the proposed UN resolution, introduced by Britain, to reform sanctions. The United States will "suffer a defeat if it insists on a vote on a new resolution", warned Babel, a newspaper run by President Saddam Hussein's elder son, Uday.
Von Sponeck and his predecessor Denis Halliday who both resigned from their UN post in protest at sanctions, warned in Amman on Friday on their way to Baghdad that smart sanctions would only aggravate the plight of Iraqis.
During a 10-day visit, the former Baghdad-posted UN officials are due to hold talks with Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz as well as travel to Kurdish-held northern Iraq.
Experts from Security Council members ― Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States ― will meet on June 12 and 13 to discuss British-US and Russian proposals on the application of the UN embargo on trade with Iraq, Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Saturday diplomatic sources as saying. ― (AFP, Baghdad)
by Farouk Choukri
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)