Iraq's oil exports jumped last week to 17.9 million barrels, their highest since late October, the office running the UN oil-for-food programme said Tuesday.
"At an average of almost 2.6 million barrels a day, Iraq... raised an estimated 367 million euros in revenue at current prices," the office said in its weekly update.
It said there were 11 loadings of Iraqi oil, breaking a slump in exports which began at the start of December because of a dispute with the Security Council's sanctions committee over the pricing formula for that month.
Sales picked up after a seven-week halt, but reached only 13.2 million barrels in the best week, early last month, leading the office to warn of a possible huge fall in revenue in the current 180-day phase of the programme which began on December 6.
Five of the loadings last week were at Iraq's Gulf port of Mina al-Bakr and six at Ceyhan on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.
These are the only outlets for Iraqi crude authorised under UN sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
A total of 71 percent of Iraq's oil revenues is available for imports of food, medicine and other necessities under the programme, set up in December 1996 to alleviate the impact of sanctions on the Iraqi people.
For most of the past two years, Iraq's official exports have averaged a little over 2.1 million barrels a day, with a peak of almost 2.8 million barrels a day during one week in October 2000.
About another 600,000 barrels a day are used for local consumption or in cross-border trade, UN officials estimate.
Last week's sales bring the total amount of oil exported in this 180-day phase of the programme to 118.7 million barrels for revenue estimated at 2.54 billion euros. The current phase, the ninth, runs from December 6 to June 3.
Eight new oil purchase contracts for a total of 20.3 million barrels were approved last week by the UN oil overseers and the sanctions committee, the office said.
Currently, there are 129 approved contracts awaiting completion for more than 368 million barrels of oil.
The value of contracts placed on hold by the sanctions committee increased by 7.7 million dollars last week and now exceeds $3.36 billion, the office said.
Of the total now blocked, 1,124 contracts worth $2.92 dollars were for humanitarian supplies and 553 contracts worth 442 million were for oil industry spare parts and equipment.
During the week, 35 contracts worth $92.2 million were released from hold by the committee and 58 new contracts worth 99.9 million were put on hold for various reasons.
They included orders for computers, cranes, fire-fighting vehicles, water tankers, turbine and compressor blades and a sprinkler irrigation system.
Members of the sanctions committee -- notably the United States and Britain -- have blocked contracts, often on the grounds that the requested supplies also had a potential military use.
A decision by the United States to block contracts to import child vaccines led to a clash March 8 with France in the Security Council.
The office of the Iraq programme said holds on the only two remaining contracts for human vaccines, worth 1.2 million dollars, were lifted last week.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse 2001.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)