Iraq was to meet UN oil overseers Monday in an attempt to resolve the impasse over its halted crude oil exports, whose revenues Baghdad is attempting to wrest away from international control.
A UN source spoke of "conflicting reports" over hether Iraq was about to resume exports at least until January to meet outstanding contracts under the current eighth phase of the UN oil-for-food programme.
Iraqi officials were to meet UN oil overseers in New York later the same day, he told AFP, asking not to be named.
The eighth phase of the programme, which was introduced in December 1996 in six-monthly phases to authorise Iraq to export crude in return for imports of essential goods, expires Tuesday night.
"The oil-for-food programme has not been a success since it was initiated four years ago. Instead of easing the suffering of the Iraqi people, it has become a burden, accumulating money from which no one benefits," an Iraqi official told AFP.
"The only solution to our problems is the lifting, pure and simple, of the sanctions imposed on Iraq," the official said, insisting that Baghdad had "implemented all UN Security Council resolutions".
Baghdad halted exports on December 1, taking around 2.4 million barrels per day (bpd) off the world market, and blamed the action on the United Nations for rejecting its pricing formula for oil exports in December.
In a bid to get round UN control of all oil export revenues, Baghdad slapped a 50 cent premium on a barrel for December.
The United Nations said it amounted to a violation of the sanctions regime as the premium would be paid directly to Baghdad and not to the UN-controlled escrow account for Iraqi oil exports.
However, Iraq also offered at the same time a discount to clients, to compensate for the 50 cent premium, and the United Nations said the formula was below a fair market price.
Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rashid said Sunday that Baghdad was to continue talks with UN oil officials that "could result in a solution" for the current impasse.
With more than $11 billion of Baghdad's oil revenues gathering dust in the escrow account at the New York branch of BNP-Paribas, the average Iraqi citizen continues to endure hardships under the sanctions imposed for Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
"Food rations handed out to us have barely increased since 1990 and food prices have become more expensive," Iraqi father-of-four Jalil Said told AFP.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Friday urged both Iraq and the Security Council to do more to relieve the sufferings of the Iraqi people.
In a report to the Council, he said Iraq's humanitarian situation had improved since the start of the oil-for-food programme four years ago, but "the lives of the ordinary Iraqis have not improved commensurately".
Annan expressed "serious concern over the excessive number of holds placed on applications" by the UN sanctions committee, which has to approve the goods Baghdad wants to import under the oil-for-food programme.
In London, ignoring the halt in Iraqi oil supplies, the price for the benchmark Brent crude opened Monday below the $31 per barrel mark.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)