Int. Herald Tribune
Annan targets US and UK on Iraq

Report cites human rights abuses by former rebels

By Colum Lynch

Paris, Wednesday, March 15, 2000

UNITED NATIONS, New York - In the draft of a report to be delivered to the United Nations Security Council this week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan will criticize the United States and Britain for holding up more than $1.5 billion worth of humanitarian supplies for Iraq and will call for doubling the amount of money that it is allowed to spend on its oil industry.

The UN's effort to ease the plight of Iraq's 20 million people "has suffered considerably" as result of "holds" placed by the United States and Britain on numerous contracts in the oil-for-food program, Mr. Annan wrote. The program allows Iraq to sell oil and use the proceeds to buy humanitarian supplies under UN supervision. The secretary-general's 64-page assessment of Iraq's humanitarian needs also renews his previous request for the Security Council to allow Iraq to double the $300 million it spends every six months on repairs and spare parts in its oil sector. The doubled sum, he said, would ensure that oil keeps flowing and providing revenue for food, medicine and the like.

"I am very much concerned with the deteriorating condition of the oil industry of Iraq," wrote Mr. Annan, who sent a team of experts in January to inspect Baghdad's petroleum fields, pipelines and refineries. The team concluded that "the ability of the Iraqi oil industry to sustain current reduced production levels will be seriously compromised unless effective action is taken immediately," according to Mr. Annan's report.

Mr. Annan also blamed President Saddam Hussein's government for spending too little of the money from oil sales on food for the population. He appealed to Baghdad to increase its daily food rations, improve the delivery of drugs for chronic illnesses and establish supplementary feeding programs for those at high risk. Since the oil-for-food deal was negotiated in 1996, the Security Council has approved $9.3 billion worth of humanitarian purchases by Iraq. All of those contracts are exemptions to the international trade sanctions imposed on Iraq after its troops invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Mr. Annan's report will be made less than a month after two senior UN humanitarian officials based in Baghdad resigned in protest over the devastating impact of the sanctions on ordinary Iraqis. It adds to the mounting pressure on the United States from some of its closest allies to demonstrate greater flexibility in approving contracts.

The Clinton administration recently began an internal review of its policy to accelerate the approval of equipment that is used for legitimate purposes. Mr. Annan reported that the council's sluggish approval of "dual use" contracts for some equipment required to repair Iraqi port facilities had hampered the UN's ability to deliver food.

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