Iraq said Monday it will reject any renewed oil-for-food program unless the United Nations ensures that the United States will not block humanitarian purchases allowed under the deal.
Iraq has “received commitments” from other countries that the program’s procedures will be changed to help keep Washington in check, Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said. He did not elaborate.
Baghdad repeatedly has accused Washington of using its clout to delay approval for Iraqi purchases of food and other items allowed under the year-old program, which is set to expire Thursday.
Without several changes in procedures involving the program, “we think (an extension) would be unacceptable, not only for Iraq, but for the other members of the Security Council,” he said.
The 15-member Security Council must decide whether to renew the program, which permits Iraq to sell $2.14 billion worth of oil every six months in order to purchase food, medicine and humanitarian items.
Economic sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the Persian Gulf War, have left Iraq desperately short of supplies.
About 100 Iraqis, angry about the shortages, surrounded two U.N. officials who were checking food supplies in Baghdad. The rear window of their car was smashed with a brick as the two drove away, said Eric Falt, spokesman for the oil-for-food program in Baghdad. No one was hurt.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reminded the Security Council of the dire situation facing ordinary Iraqis. He asked the council to consider raising the amount of oil revenue Iraq can spend on food and medicine, though he did not recommend a specific increase in oil exports.
U.N. officials said they urged him to double the amount of oil Iraq can export but he backed off on figures at the requests of the United States.
“Given the scale of urgent humanitarian requirements in Iraq, the Security Council may wish to re-examine the adequacy of the revenues,” Annan said in a report to the council.
The Clinton administration has said it has no objections to studying ways to improve the program.
Two-thirds of the $2.14 billion in oil revenue Iraq is allowed to receive goes to buy humanitarian goods. The rest pays reparations to Kuwaiti victims of the Gulf War and to finance U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq. One option could be to maintain current export levels but spend more for food and medicine.
The Security Council was expected to take up Annan’s report on Wednesday.
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