Iraq's Trade Minister Mohammad Mehdi Saleh charged Saturday, June 16, that the "smart" sanctions proposed by Britain and the United States aim to hamper commerce between Baghdad and other Arab capitals.
"Among the objectives of the so-called smart sanctions is to block commerce between Iraq and Arab states so as to deprive the Arabs of bilateral cooperation and serve American-Zionist interests," he told reporters in Dubai.
"The contracts between Iraq and 15 Arab countries since 1997 under the (UN) oil-for-food program amount to $10.645 billion," on top of six billion dollars for the private sector, said Saleh.
Under the UN program launched at the end of 1996, Egypt was the largest Arab trading partner with $2.485 billion, followed by Jordan with $2.237 billion and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with $2.082 billion.
On June 7, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Syria signed an agreement in Baghdad to establish a common free trade zone. Iraq has since January also sealed bilateral free trade accords with Egypt, Syria and Tunisia.
Saleh, who met with Dubai's Crown Prince and Emirati Defense Minister Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashed Al-Maktoum, said that Baghdad would defeat efforts at the UN Security Council to impose smart sanctions.
"Iraq will foil the US-British project and any other project which does not live up to Iraq's key demand for a lifting of the embargo" in force since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, he said. Saleh said he informed Sheikh Mohammad of the "true objectives" of smart sanctions.
Britain, with US backing, has circulated a Security Council draft resolution that would abolish curbs on civilian trade with Iraq but tighten a weapons ban and controls on smuggling outside the UN oil-for-food deal.
Iraq on June 4 suspended more than two million barrels per day of oil exports under the UN humanitarian deal in protest at the plan, which the Security Council aims to put to the vote by early July.
Later Saturday, Iraq's deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz also said his country was capable of "foiling the British plan, backed by the US administration". "If this project was imposed on the Security Council by the United States, all Iraq's (trade) partners in the Arab nation and in the world would be affected and encounter economic difficulties," Aziz said from Baghdad.
During his dinner Friday night in Beirut with touring UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri said "his country was severely damaged by the embargo on Iraq and the oil-for-food program", an official Lebanese source said. ― (AFP, Dubai)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)