USIS Washington 

20 February 1998


(US strongly supports "oil-for-food" program expansion) (1020)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The UN Security Council February 20 unanimously
agreed to a massive increase in the amount of oil Baghdad can sell in
order to buy food and other humanitarian supplies for Iraqi civilians
and to help restore clean water and sanitation.

The Council accepted the recommendations of Secretary General Kofi
Annan to adjust the plan that allows Baghdad to sell oil under strict
UN supervision in order to buy needed food, medicine, and other
humanitarian supplies for Iraqis affected by the seven-year-old
economic embargo. Oil sales can now be increased from about $2,000
million to $5,256 million over six months.

US Ambassador Peter Burleigh said that the program, which is the
largest UN-sanctioned humanitarian program in UN history "is a
concrete demonstration that the United Nations, and in particular the
members of this Council, remain committed to meeting the essential
humanitarian needs of all Iraq's people."

The United States is ready to work closely with other Council members
to ensure that the resolution works "not for the benefit of the Iraqi
regime, but for the welfare of ordinary people in Iraq," said
Burleigh, the deputy US Permanent Representative to the UN. That
includes significantly expanding UN observation and monitoring of the

"Unfortunately as long as the Government of Iraq persists in its
mistaken belief that it can defy the will of the international
community and that of the Council, the sanctions must remain in place.
And the United Nations will continue to carry the burden that the
Iraqi Government has refused to bear -- caring for the welfare of the
people of Iraq," the US Ambassador said.

Citing Iraq's history of not cooperating with the UN on the
humanitarian plan, Burleigh said, Baghdad's record is "a telling
reminder of the Iraqi Government's true attitude toward the plight of
its people."

Despite Iraqi propaganda, food and medicine are not affected by UN
sanctions, British Ambassador Sir John Weston pointed out. After
finally accepting the oil-for-food plan almost four years after it was
first proposed when it did sell oil, Iraq "used to money to lower by
an equivalent amount their own spending on the welfare of the Iraqi
people," he said.

"The Government of Iraq must accept this resolution so that the people
of Iraq can get the help they so desperately need. If it does not, we
know exactly who is to blame," Sir John said.

The increase in the so-called "oil-for-food" plan comes as the Council
is engaged in a showdown with Iraq over the destruction of Iraqi
weapons and Annan, himself, is in Baghdad trying to convince Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein to allow UN weapons inspectors access to all
sites in the country as called for by the gulf war cease-fire

Proposing the increase in oil sales earlier in February Annan said
that he hoped Iraq "will turn back from the precipice" and cooperate
with the UN on both the weapons inspections and the humanitarian aid

"I hope that President Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi leadership will
share the concern I am displaying today for the Iraqi population and
have the wisdom to take the right decisions," Annan said February 2.

The increased oil sales will go into effect after Baghdad submits to
the UN an acceptable distribution plan, a description of the goods to
be bought and where they will enter the country, and the objectives of
the purchases.

However, since the Secretary General submitted his recommendations to
the Council Iraq has not indicated that it would accept the proposal.
Instead Iraqi officials sent a letter outlining lengthy objections to
the plan. Annan also said that the UN did not get "the kind of
cooperation we had expected from the Iraqi authorities" in preparing
the proposal for increased oil sales.

According to the new plan, in addition to increasing the amount of
food and medicine provided, there is a one-time allocation of funds to
repair some sewage systems, dams, and electricity generating plants
that directly affect the humanitarian program.

"Basically what we are trying to do is to increase the calorie intake
of the Iraqi population from 2,000 to 2,460 calories per person a day"
along with increasing the amount of medicine, Annan said in his
written report to the Council.

The new plan provides for programs to help Iraq improve the
agriculture output particularly in the areas of poultry and egg
production, improving schools for young people, and programs for
children at risk, the Secretary General said.

"We believe if we do not repair these infrastructure facilities its
impact will be to undermine all the good we are trying by bringing in
additional supplies," Annan said. "If they don't have clean water to
drink it will lead to diseases and more medicine will be required."

"If you don't have electricity for refrigeration, for hospital
operations, you undermine the effectiveness of these hospitals," he

According to the resolution between $682 million and $788 million must
be used for food and health needs. "Reasonable expenses" related to
the Hajj pilgrimage are also to be paid for from the oil sales.

In the resolution, which was presented as a presidential text to show
the unanimity of the Council, the UN must also work with Iraq to
determine if Iraq will be able to pump the increased amount of oil.
The Council also asked for an interim review in 90 days.

The basic requirements of the original "oil-for-food" plan are still
in effect. The proceeds of the oil sales are deposited in a special
account and distributed according to a set formula: 30 percent to the
Compensation Fund dealing with claims resulting from the invasion of
Kuwait; 2 to 4 percent to pay for the UN administration of the oil
sales, 6 percent for the Special Commission overseeing the destruction
of Iraqi weapons (UNSCOM), and the remainder for the humanitarian aid.