February 21, 1998 in Nation/World

Iraq At Our Mercy U.S., Britain Agree To Allow Greater Oil Revenue To Ease Nation’s Blight.

Christopher S. Wren New York Times

The Security Council on Friday more than doubled the amount of oil that Baghdad will be allowed to sell to buy food, medicine and other goods desperately needed by the 22 million Iraqis living under U.N. sanctions.

The council voted unanimously for a resolution initiated by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Feb. 2. It raises the current limit - now a year old - of $2 billion in oil sales every six months to $5.2 billion. It also allows some of the revenue to repair Iraq’s dilapidated electricity, water and sanitation systems.

The resolution acknowledged that “the population of Iraq continues to face a very serious nutritional and health situation” after living with sanctions for seven years.

A number of council members also pointed out that Iraq’s full cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors would make it possible for the sanctions to end.

The United States and Britain voted for the resolution, though they have threatened to resort to military force if Saddam Hussein does not comply with a Security Council resolution from 1991 that obliges Iraq to grant total access to the weapons inspectors.

The U.S. deputy representative, Peter Burleigh, said, “The United States is deeply concerned about the welfare of the Iraqi people, and we want to do everything we can to make sure their basic needs are met.”

Other members used the occasion to express the council’s support for Annan in his meetings this weekend with the Iraqi leadership. The president for February, Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon, expressed the hope “that the secretary-general’s mission is crowned with success.”

The resolution adopted Friday was based on an amended plan put forward by Britain, Portugal and Sweden that lays out the terms for implementing Annan’s proposal.

Britain’s chief delegate, Sir John Weston, described the resolution as more than just a technical document.

“It is a clear message that we are not prepared to see the Iraqi people suffer as a consequence of their leaders,” he said.

Benon Sevan, the U.N. official who runs the oil-for-food program, went before the Security Council to explain the need for such a resolution.

“We welcome it because it will help the Iraqi people,” Sevan said Friday.

Several Security Council members complained about Iraq’s lack of cooperation in drafting a new distribution plan.

Iraqi officials withheld comment on Annan’s proposal for several days, then rejected portions, in part because the distribution of commodities is kept out of their hands, and because repairs of the electrical grid are confined to an area of northern Iraq under Kurdish control.

The Iraqi officials also contend that aging equipment and a lack of spare parts make it impossible to pump as much as $5.2 billion of oil in six months. The resolution instructs the secretary-general to empanel a group of experts to determine how much oil Iraq can produce.

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