The UN "oil-for-food" program in Iraq should be renamed to reflect the wide range of humanitarian needs it could now meet, UN Deputy Secretary General, Louise Frechette, said Tuesday.
The Office of the Iraq Program (OIP) said that since the start of the current six-month phase of the program on June 9, Iraq had exported $6.7 billion worth of oil under UN supervision.
Of that, 53 percent is allocated to humanitarian programs in the government-controlled center and south of Iraq, and 13 percent to the northern, Kurdish regions. Most of the remaining revenue goes into a fund to compensate victims of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The oil-for-food program was set up in December 1996 to soften the impact on Iraqi citizens of the UN sanctions imposed after the invasion. But, Frechette said, "the popular expression oil-for-food has become a misnomer, given the immense revenues now available for Iraq to fund a range of needs beyond food and medicine." She was speaking at the start of a two-day meeting of senior officials from all UN relief agencies working in Iraq.
In its weekly update, OIP said the Iraqi government estimated that $7.05 billion would be available for humanitarian imports in areas under its control during the current phase, which runs to December 5.
Since June 9, it said, the government had submitted 385 contracts for the purchase of humanitarian goods and equipment worth $1.6 billion, about four-fifths of it for food.
Under the sanctions regime, the government sends contracts to the OIP, which sends possibly contentious applications to the Security Council's Iraqi sanctions committee for approval.
The OIP said that last week the committee placed holds on 52 new contracts worth a total of $115.8 million for irrigation equipment, a pumping station, sub-station equipment, trucks and cranes.
At the same time, it released holds on 24 contracts worth $51.2 million for purchases of trailer trucks, an asphalt recycler, drilling rigs, turbine equipment and chain conveyors for silos.
"The total value of contracts on hold in all sectors of the program is now more than $2.25 billion," the office said. This included more than $1.97 billion for humanitarian supplies and $279 million for oil industry spare parts and equipment, it said. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)