12 May 1998

Press Briefing



The Chairman of the Committee established by the Security Council under its resolution 661 (1990) to monitor its sanctions on Iraq, Antonio Monteiro (Portugal), this evening briefed correspondents on the Committee's meeting this afternoon, at a press conference at United Nations Headquarters. Among the issues discussed was the question of spare parts for Iraqi oil pipelines, and the payment of compensation to Egyptian workers who were expelled from the Gulf region following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Recalling that Egypt had submitted a claim on behalf of those workers, Mr. Monteiro said the Committee had referred the matter to the Compensation Commission in Geneva. That Commission had decided to pay approximately $85 million of the claims. The balance of the claims, amounting to $400 million, were dismissed as being outside the Commission's jurisdiction. They were debts incurred prior to 2 August 1990, placing them outside the scope of resolution 687 (1991), he said. [That text set the terms for the ceasefire following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which began on 2 August 1990.]

He said the Egyptian Mission to the United Nations had been informed about the Commission's decision to compensate those workers. That decision had been taken without prejudice to the right of those workers to pursue the matter further using any other appropriate means. The Committee would contact Egypt and Iraq to see if there was another way of compensating those workers who were left out by the Compensation Commission.

Mr. Monteiro said the Committee had also considered a request from a woman in Germany who wanted to import dinars from Switzerland. The matter was referred to the United Nations Legal Counsel to see if that would violate Security Council resolutions on Iraq. The Legal Counsel said the money would be used as a commodity. He was therefore of the opinion that the intended import would fall within the provisions of paragraph 3 (a) of resolution 661 [which establishes which commodities and products are covered by the sanctions]. The Committee would inform the German Mission about that opinion. If the Mission wanted further clarification on the basis of the Legal Counsel's opinion, the Committee would provide it.

On the issue of spare parts for oil pipelines, the Committee had decided to wait until the monitoring system envisaged by the Secretariat was put in place, Mr. Monteiro said. Spare parts had been authorized for the pipelines in Turkey. He said the Committee had also discussed a request from a Danish company to pay Iraq for telecommunication services. The Committee said such payment was feasible but must be deposited in an account outside of Iraq.

Iraq Sanctions Committee Press Conference - 2 - 12 May 1998

Also discussed by the Committee was the case of a Danish mathematics professor who wanted to share some results on bridge-building with an Iraqi citizen, Mr. Monteiro said. The Committee wanted to know the purpose of that exercise. It had therefore asked for clarification through the Danish Foreign Ministry. If it was not in violation of the provisions of the Council's resolutions, it would be approved.

Mr. Monteiro said the diplomatic corps in Baghdad in January sent a letter to the President of the Security Council to request flight authorization for diplomats in Baghdad. They had complained about the difficulty of travelling 11 hours by road from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad. They reasoned that since United Nations personnel in Iraq travelled by air, they should be extended the same privilege.

The Committee had decided to ask the Department of Peacekeeping Operations if United Nations flights could be made available to diplomats in Baghdad, he went on to say. The Committee would also ask the dean of the diplomatic corps in Baghdad if they had any practical suggestion on the matter. The Committee would examine such a suggestion to see whether or not it contradicted the resolutions of the Council.

Asked about the status of the talks on spare parts, Mr. Monteiro said they were proceeding well, but that it was really a matter for the Security Council.

* *** *