Iraq is holding talks with the United Nations to transfer some of its UN-controlled oil revenues, currently deposited in French bank BNP-Paribas, to five other European banks, a newspaper reported Sunday, April 8.
The Iraqi central bank was negotiating with the financial affairs department of the United Nations on transferring some revenues to five other banks in Austria, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, Al-Ittihad quoted a spokesman as saying.
Central bank governor Issam Rashid Hawish last month criticized BNP-Paribas' "slowness in opening lines of credit and settling bills" with suppliers.
BNP-Paribas had caused "Iraq enormous losses with lateness in deliveries," Hawish said, adding that "our suppliers demand surcharges because they are liable to have to wait for payment" by the bank.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has defended the French bank, shifting the blame to the Iraqi central bank by saying it had been repeatedly asked to speed up its own procedures.
BNP-Paribas handles all Iraq's oil revenues — expected to total about $5.7 billion in the first half of this year — and opens letters of credit for all its imports under the UN's oil-for-food program.
The program was introduced in 1996, with the aim of easing sanctions imposed on Iraq in the aftermath of its 1990 occupation of Kuwait, by authorizing the use of oil proceeds to buy food and medicine under strict UN supervision. — (AFP, Baghdad)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)