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21 January 1999

TRANSCRIPT: U.S. PROPOSES REFORMS TO IRAQI "OIL-FOR-FOOD" PROGRAM

(Burleigh says changes could lessen suffering of Iraqi people) (9320)

Washington -- The Acting U.S. Representative to the United Nations
says the United States has recently advanced several new proposals to
the U.N.-administered "oil-for-food" program that could lessen the
suffering of the Iraqi people.

"I think everyone on the (U.N.) Security Council, and certainly the
U.S. Government, wants to help the Iraqi people," Ambassador Peter
Burleigh said January 20. "And it is in this regard that we made some
proposals last week in New York in the Security Council."

Burleigh made his remarks on "Global Exchange," a weekly, Worldnet
current affairs program. The international call-in program, offered in
Arabic and English, allows broadcasters, journalists and others to ask
guests in Washington questions.

The proposals include raising the ceilings on funds that could be
devoted to food and medicine for the Iraqi people, and "other reforms"
that would allow "automatic approval" of contracts for food and
medicine rather than having them reviewed in New York, Burleigh said.

Another proposal is to create additional programs to "target" the
needs of children under five and the elderly, and to find ways to
"ensure that Iraqi citizens can participate in the hajj," he said.

According to Burleigh, Iraqi authorities last year refused to
participate in the hajj program which has been under the oil-for-food
program for more than a year.

"Everyone on the Council, I think, wants to facilitate Iraqi citizens
who wish to perform the hajj as an important part of their religious
commitment," Burleigh said. "And we all appreciate that and understand
it and want to help it. So we have appealed to the Iraqi authorities
again this year to cooperate with the U.N. to make sure that Iraqis
can go on the hajj."

According to U.N. Resolution 986, popularly known as the oil-for-food
program, Iraq can now export $5.2 billion of oil every six months.
However, given the declining price of oil and state of Iraq oil
infrastructure, Iraqi oil exports amount to around $3 billion,
Burleigh said.

The chief purpose of the U.N.-administered program, which was first
approved in 1991, is not to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure damaged in
the Gulf War, Burleigh said. Rather, it was designed specifically to
meet the needs of the Iraqi people. Iraq, however, only began
participating in the oil-for-food program in 1996.

On the issue of sanctions, Burleigh said the U.S. does "not favor"
lifting them, per se, because Iraq still has not met its obligations
under various Security Council resolutions. What the U.S. does favor,
however, is finding ways to increase the amount of funds "dedicated
and targeted" on food and medicine for the Iraqi people.

With regard to French and Russian proposals about revising the current
U.N. inspection and monitoring system to disarm Iraq, Burleigh said
whatever system emerges out of the Security Council must be "very
tough and intrusive."

U.S. officials have "some substantial problems" with the Russian
proposal because "it appears to assess that the disarmament of Iraq is
complete," Burleigh said. However, he said the U.S. has plans to begin
talks with the French about their proposal to determine how "useful"
it can be for long-term monitoring.

Prior to answering questions on the Iraqi oil-for-food program,
Burleigh commented on the U.S. policy regarding the current situation
in Kosovo, and on U.N. proposals to withdraw its peacekeeping force
from Angola.

Following is the text of the "Global Exchange":

(Begin text)

MR. KHATIB: Hello, good morning. Welcome to "Global Exchange." This is
Mohanned Khatib.

Today we will discuss in our segment issues linked and surrounding the
food-for-oil program. The program was adopted in response to
international concern about the hundreds of Iraqi citizens because of
continuing sanctions against the Iraqi government. Despite contrary
views from Baghdad, the United Nations maintains that the focus of 986
remains to provide the humanitarian support for the Iraqi people,
especially those in immediate need of assistance. (Begin videotape.)

ANNOUNCER: The oil-for-food program allows Iraq to sell a limited
amount of oil in order to purchase food, medicine and other
humanitarian supplies for its population. Resolution 986, which has
been amended several times in order to keep pace with the changing
economic and political landscape, remains at the heart of a
contentious debate that oftentimes attempts to address who is to blame
for the suffering of Iraqi citizens.

While it seems there is a clear path to lifting sanctions by complying
with U.N. arms inspectors, as long as the present Iraqi regime rejects
the international community's demands to comply, Iraq and its people
will continue to suffer.

(End videotape.)

MR. KHATIB: We have in the studio here to discuss this and other
issues Ambassador Burleigh, deputy representative of the United States
to the United Nations. Ambassador Burleigh, welcome to "Global
Exchange."

Before I invite broadcasters standing by to join us, before we hit on
the subject of food for oil, as long as we have Ambassador Burleigh
here I would like to raise a couple of questions.

And let us start with Kosovo. Yesterday President Clinton reported
with the State of the Union -- touched very clearly on this issue.
What does the United States intend to do in that regard, and what does
the international community as well as the United States government
intend to do?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, I can tell you that, as the president stated in
his speech, State of the Union speech last night, the U.S. is very
concerned about recent developments in Kosovo, as is the Security
Council at the United Nations. And it issued -- the Security Council
issued a very strong presidential statement yesterday which condemned
the killings which called for an objective investigation of exactly
what went on and who is responsible. It also expressed very strong
support for the OSCE mission and what is called the Kosovo
Verification Mission, the KVM, as well as its leader, Ambassador
William Walker, whom as you know has been declared persona non grata
by the Yugoslav authorities.

And finally we want an investigation that includes a leading role for
the international tribunal. And it's the U.S. position and the
position of most of the Security Council that the tribunal should take
the lead in investigating this most recent atrocity. In particular we
would like to see the chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour, who has been
denied access to Kosovo by the Yugoslav authorities -- we would like
to see her and her investigators in Kosovo so that we can have an
investigation that we can have confidence in the results. We need an
objective investigation.

We also believe there should be accountability. Those who are
responsible for this atrocity should be brought to justice. And the
mechanism for that is the International Criminal Tribunal.

MR. KHATIB: Another issue, ambassador, before we touch on the food for
oil, is the issue of Angola, that the United Nations is getting ready
to pull out its forces before the end of March. What will be the next
step please?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, this again is a very serious issue that is
confronting the Security Council now in New York, and there will be
discussions over the coming weeks about what the U.N. should do. What
has happened so far is that the secretary general of the United
Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, has sent a report to the Security Council
recommending in effect the withdrawal of the peace monitors there --
they're called MONUA (sp).

There's a general view in the Council, and certainly one shared by the
U.S., that we cannot withdraw from Angola completely at this point in
time. There has been an enormous investment both in personnel and in
money by the international community in Angola over several years,
especially since the 1994 Lusaka peace agreement was signed between
the government and UNITA, the main opposition force.

So we are calling on both sides, both the government and UNITA, to
save the peace process there, not to go the route of war. There is
heavy fighting going on in Angola now. There has been the perception
that there is much less of a role for the U.N. to play because the
fighting has resumed. We would like to call on both sides to stop the
fighting and come back into to the negotiations, which is where the
U.N. can be most useful. And we would hope that they would see the
wisdom of that course rather than violence. There's a major
humanitarian catastrophe looming in Angola. There are a lot of
displaced people. The numbers have gone up. Hundreds of thousands of
people have left their homes just this past year because of the
fighting, the conflict, and the U.N., the Security Council, is very
concerned about that as well. So really we are in a situation where we
hope that both the government and UNITA will come back to the
negotiation table and try to make a success of the Lusaka peace
agreement.

MR. KHATIB: Ambassador Burleigh, let us move now to the core of our
discussion today, which is the oil-for-food program. How do you assess
the decision 986 and its effectiveness? Particularly, there are
conflicting points of view about how effective it is. The American
administration -- how do you assess the effectiveness of 986 please?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, I'd like to recommend that everyone who wants to
have an objective view of what's going on with the oil-for-food
program should study the reports and listen to what the U.N. has been
publishing about these over the past year.

The program is managed from New York by the U.N. Secretariat. The head
of that program is Mr. Benan Savan (sp), who has been in charge now of
that program for about 14 months. And there have been major
improvements and reforms in that system during that 14 months. So that
right now the processing of contracts and the approval of contracts
for example, especially focusing on food and medicine for the Iraqi
people, is working smoothly. And basically the deliveries are arriving
in Iraq. And compared to the beginning of the program where there were
logistical and other problems relating to establishing a huge new
program, the program is much improved.

I would like to point out that it is a huge program. The program now
authorizes up to $5.2 billion every six months. This is much larger
than the whole U.N. budget. The whole U.N. budget is only $2.5
billion. So this has been a challenge for the United Nations and for
those of us who are supporting the program.

Most basically I'd like to point out to viewers that it has been the
U.S. and the Security Council in general that has been at the
forefront of trying to make this program work -- first in authorizing
it in 1991 -- and it took five years before the government of Iraq
agreed to participate in the program at all -- until 1996. Since then,
since the Iraqi authorities have agreed to participate, the lot of the
Iraqi people has been improving.

But I want to make two points about that as well. One is that the
purpose of the program was never to be responsible for the total
feeding and providing medicines for all the Iraqi people. It was
supposed to be a supplementary program. The government of Iraq has
basic responsibilities to the feeding and the health needs of their
own population. And it was the purpose of 986 and of the oil-for-food
program to supplement where there were problems or lack of certain
kinds of medicines for example or sufficient amount of food.

What's happened in practice is that the government of Iraq has reduced
the amount that it is committing to the food and medicines, and more
and more the program has had to take on the burden of being
responsible for the feeding of all Iraqis. So I just want to make that
point, which is that one of the issues here is the responsibility of
the government of Iraq for the feeding and health of its own
population. That continues to be Iraq's responsibility.

And secondly, where there are identified problems, the U.N. program
has been targeting parts of the Iraqi population -- for example
children and the elderly who are disadvantaged and vulnerable groups
in Iraqi society which the government of Iraq has refused to focus on
in terms of their health and medicine needs.

So the U.N. and the international community is trying to play a
constructive role. The program is working efficiently now, and the
deliveries are being made in Iraq. There are problems with
distribution once the items are in Iraq. There are some reports of
stockpiles -- the latest report from Mr. Savan (sp) for example talks
about a huge amount of medicines -- about a six-month supply of
medicines that are in warehouses inside Iraq that haven't been
distributed by the Ministry of Health of Iraq. So there are problems
like that that are the responsibility of the Iraqi authorities.

MR. KHATIB: Ambassador Burleigh, at this point, $5.2 billion every six
months that the Iraq government would sell in order to provide
humanitarian aid is not a symbol. But considering that the capacity of
oil production and the infrastructure framework that needs to be
developed, and also considering the decreasing values of oil at this
point in time, it seems that this would not be adequate to support or
to lessen the suffering on the Iraqi people. How could one help the
Iraqi people coping with these sufferings in different matters?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, I think everyone on the Security Council, and
certainly the U.S. government, wants to help the Iraqi people. And it
is in that regard that we made some proposals last week in New York in
the Security Council which would raise the ceiling on funds that could
be devoted to food and medicine for the Iraqi people. And we've also
proposed some other reforms that would automatically approve the
contracts for example for food and medicine, rather than having them
go through the process of review by the committees in New York.

And, thirdly, we've also proposed that there be some additional
programs to target the needs of children under five and the elderly.
And we have also made appeals -- and I know the committee, the
sanctions committee in New York -- is looking at ways to ensure that
Iraqi citizens can participate in the hajj. This is something that has
been part of the 986 program for more than a year. But last year the
Iraqi authorities declined to participate in the program for the hajj.
Everyone on the Council I think wants to facilitate Iraqi citizens who
wish to perform the hajj as an important part of their religious
commitment. And we all appreciate that and understand it and want to
help it. So we have appealed to the Iraqi authorities again this year
to cooperate with the U.N. to make sure that Iraqis can go on the
hajj.

I'll make one other point -- I didn't answer the first part of your
question. It is true that Iraq has not been able to export enough oil
to hit the $5.2 billion cap, which is the cap for every six months
that's been authorized by the Council. I think this year so far, given
the price of oil and the state of the Iraqi oil infrastructure, that
their exports are going to be around $3 billion -- something like
that. So it's in light of that that we made these proposals last year
to raise the amount that can go for food and medicine. This was the
key purpose of the oil-for-food program -- was not to rebuild the
infrastructure of Iraq -- those funds are going to have to come from
some other source; but specifically to meet the needs of the Iraqi
people. And I think that's a concern very widely held in the Security
Council and in the U.N. in general, that no one -- and certainly not
the U.S. government -- we have no dispute with the Iraqi people and
there is no intention to harm them in any way. Our dispute is with the
government of Iraq and specifically with Saddam Hussein and the
authorities in Iraq who insistently refuse to meet their obligations
to the U.N. under the various Security Council resolutions since 1990.
So we want to draw a very sharp distinction here. We are opposed to
the government of Saddam Hussein. We think they are irresponsible, and
we have demanded for years that they cooperate with the disarmament of
Iraq and then have a serious monitoring program of the state of their
arms industry versus the people of Iraq. No one has a dispute with
them. In fact, we have a lot of sympathy for the people of Iraq. We
are hopeful that sometime soon they will have a government that fully
represents them and reflects them as President Clinton mentioned last
night in his State of the Union address.

MR. KHATIB: Ambassador Burleigh, we have several broadcasters and
journalists standing by that would like to raise some questions
addressed to you. Let us start with MBC. Go ahead with your question
please.

Q: Thank you, Ambassador Burleigh, we appreciate your frequent
participation on this program. Several observers in the Middle East
see that there is a divide going through the international coalition
here vis-a-vis the point of food for oil and the sanctions, the
economic sanctions imposed on Iraq. There is a French-Russian camp
that I would like you to focus on this. How could one cope with the
problems facing this issue?

And the second aspect would be the regional initiatives, ambassador,
talking about the initiative of Saudi Arabia regarding Iraq, the issue
of sanctions. Such a position we consider new, a clear vision or clear
consensus between Washington and Riyadh that there must be a new
government in the near future in Baghdad. Thank you for your comments.

AMB. BURLEIGH: Thank you. You have asked several questions, and I'll
try to address them. You are quite right that there is discussion
going on in the Security Council now in the United Nations and New
York. It's been going on now for a couple of weeks on the basis of
proposals that have been tabled by -- in the first instance by the
French government and now on this past Friday the Russian government
has also submitted some proposals which they say supplement the French
proposals. We have made some proposals with regard to the humanitarian
issues which I have just described. There are other members of the
Council that have ideas on the subject.

But I'd like to make the following points. One is that there is
agreement within the Council that there are outstanding -- many
outstanding questions with regard to the disarmament of Iraq. And
disarmament is the key purpose of the resolutions -- all of the
resolutions, starting from 1990, but especially Resolution 687 in
1991. And it is the obligations that fall to Iraq and which Iraq
accepted -- I want to make this clear too -- Iraq accepted to
cooperate fully with the United Nations, including with the arms
inspectors, starting from 1991 as a result of the Gulf conflict. For
that period, for the period of eight full years, Iraq has really not
cooperated and has been -- has failed to disclose -- tried to conceal
various of their programs of weapons of mass destruction. And there
are still some very serious outstanding problems. And I would just
draw to the viewers' attention the question of biological weapons.
This is an area where the Iraqis have been -- have completely refused
to cooperate with the arms inspectors, with UNSCOM over the years.
It's a source -- the question of biological weapons in the hands of
the Iraqi authorities, who have a history of acting very irresponsibly
with regard to such weapons -- after all, they have used chemical
weapons. They are the only country that I know of in the world that
has actually used chemical weapons both on its neighbor and on its own
people. You'll have to remember what happened in the late '80s inside
Iraq. And it's for that reason that we continue to consider Iraq a
threat to its neighbors -- virtually all of its neighbors.

So whatever system may be developed in the Security Council over time
for disarmament and monitoring of the state of disarmament has to be a
very tough and intrusive system in our view, and it is in that regard
that these discussions will go on with reference to the French plan in
particular.

We have some substantial problems with the Russian proposal because it
appears to assess that the disarmament of Iraq is complete. We do not
agree with that. We do not think that is accurate, and we will oppose
that. But with regard to the French proposals, we will be discussing
with the French how in the long term the kind of monitoring system
they are proposing might be very useful if it is tough and objective,
because frankly the record of the government of Iraq and the Iraqi
authorities with regard to weapons of mass destruction is one which
leads us not to trust the word of the government of Iraq. We have to
verify. We want to see the facts on the ground. And if there is
information that there are WMD programs that are ongoing, we want the
U.N. to be in a position to have tough, intrusive inspections, so that
we can be satisfied -- the whole international community can be
satisfied, especially the neighbors in the region can be satisfied
that Iraq doesn't have weapons of mass destruction and the ability to
deliver them. And, as I said at the beginning, we believe there are
substantial areas where the government of Iraq has to continue.

With regard to the lifting of sanctions in general, and the proposals
that some regional governments have tentatively been making, I at
least have not seen the details of those proposals. But we do not
favor the lifting of sanctions per se. But we do favor, as I mentioned
earlier, looking at ways where the amount of funds that are dedicated
and targeted on food and medicine for the Iraqi people can be
increased. But we do not believe that the time has come for the
lifting of sanctions, because the obligations of Iraq under the
various Security Council resolutions have not been met. And in fact
the Iraqi authorities spend enormous amounts money and personnel in
concealing and hiding from the United Nations what they are actually
doing with regard to weapons of mass destruction.

MR. KHATIB: I think we lost contact with MBC, but we have several
other colleagues from el-Hayat (sp) in London. Go ahead with your
question please.

Q: Hello, Mr. Burleigh. And I heard what you said about increasing the
ceiling for food for oil for Iraq. Now, many observers -- and one of
them is Mr. Herzi (sp), who was in charge of the humanitarian program
in Iraq -- until recently believed that in fact you are basically --
the U.S. -- is basically responsible for one of the highest rates of
incidences in deaths amongst children in Iraq, simply because how much
oil you allow Iraq to pump. And the fact is that the Iraqi dinar is
worth nothing and ordinary people cannot purchase -- hardly can
purchase their food. And therefore the Iraqi government therefore will
not have any control over its own economy. And this is the only way
really that Iraq can improve the economic situation and improve the
health of its population. But if it has no control then this high of
death incidence among children and elderly people will continue. What
do you say to that?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, first of all, I think the facts as stated by Mr.
Haliday are not correct. There -- the U.N. program, the oil-for-food
program, is done in cooperation with the government of Iraq. It's a
joint U.N.-government of Iraq program. So all of the orders that are
placed for food and medicine and the other items that are now
authorized under the program are initiated by the government of Iraq.
They are then approved by the United Nations and then Iraq is
responsible for actually placing the orders and ensuring that the
goods get shipped to Iraq, and then distributed. And as I was
mentioning earlier in the program, if you look at the recent reports
-- I would really appeal to all viewers to look at the reports of the
United Nations most recently, the Office of the Iraq program here in
New York -- is the authoritative voice with regard to an objective
assessment of what is actually going on with this program. And if you
look carefully at that report there are several parts of it which are
particularly troubling. I mentioned one earlier -- that there are six
months of supply of certain kinds of medicine -- actually a large
array of medicines that are kept in store houses inside Iraq. These
are in possession of the Ministry of Health of Iraq -- not in the U.N.
possession and not pending contracts here in New York.

Secondly, for example, last year there was intense concern about the
health of children in Iraq very widely held in the international
community. So a whole program was set up under the oil-for-food
program which targeted the special nutritional needs of children under
five. Not one contract -- not one -- has come to the U.N. yet from the
government of Iraq targeting specifically children under five. And
more than 12 months has gone by since that was authorized. So I am
citing these statistics just to appeal to you to look at the facts and
not just to listen to what I consider to be Iraqi propaganda about
this.

And a final point: Iraq does have substantial control over the goods
and services which are purchased under these programs. They do it
through providing what they call a distribution plan to the United
Nations, which is approved by the secretary general with the
concurrence of the Security Council. So these are Iraqi proposals
about how they will divide the money that is available under this
program -- say roughly $3 billion this last six months -- $3 billion
could cover and does cover a lot of food and a lot of medicine. But
most of the remaining problems in the efficiency of the system relate
to what happens once those goods are in Iraq. And that's what's
interesting about this most recent report which was briefed to the
Security Council just two weeks ago by Mr. Savan (sp) -- is if you
look carefully at what the U.N., which has overall responsibility for
this program -- I think you will find that that is documented in that
report.

Q: Mr. Burleigh, you do realize that the Iraqi dinar has virtually no
value. A man in Iraq who has a family will have to spend his whole
monthly salary in order to buy three dozen eggs. How do you solve that
riddle? I mean this is the real dilemma of the Iraqi people.

AMB. BURLEIGH: I would like to make a point with regard to the
oil-for-food program. That is supplied in what is called a food basket
to all Iraqi citizens. That goes to everyone, and they don't have to
pay for that -- that's provided largely now by the international
community through this oil-for-food program as well by the government
of Iraq.

I know there are -- with specific response to your question, I know
there are problems in the buying power for the Iraqi population. But
the way out of that -- we would like to see that situation ended as
quickly as possible -- but the way out of that is to get rid of the
weapons of mass destruction and demonstrate and prove to the
international community that Iraq has disarmed with regard to those
weapons. And this is what the government of Iraq from day one has
really refused to do.

I would like to make one other point. In 1991, when the resolution was
originally passed which set up this whole system of sanctions, the
purpose of which was the disarmament of Iraq. The thinking was that
within days -- some people say 15 days, some people said a couple of
months -- that this, given cooperation from the Iraqi authorities that
these demands could be met. This was in 1991. And the reason these
sanctions are still in place is because Saddam Hussein and his
authorities, his colleagues in the government of Iraq, have refused to
give up their weapons of mass destruction. This is the major call from
the international community from the beginning of this process, which
was that the responsibility was Saddam Hussein's to make the decision
that he had to give up these weapons of mass destruction. If he did
that there would be none of these problems you are describing with
regard to the Iraqi population. And so I think there is a very
important point here. It seems -- you may want to debate this, but our
assessment is that Saddam Hussein cares more about keeping weapons of
mass destruction than he does about the state of his own people. And
in fact he and his government go to great lengths to make propaganda
value about the problems that the Iraqi population is facing. But the
way out of this is to disarm with regard to the weapons of mass
destruction. Thank you.

MR. KHATIB: From el-Hayat (sp) London we will get to more questions,
but now we have Mohammed calling from Budapest. Go ahead with your
question please.

Q: Hello. Well, good evening. I have a question for his excellency,
stating that the Iraqi regime is going to be changed -- and even
President Clinton yesterday said that. The process is on to change.
And do you agree that as long as Saddam is in power the sufferings
will continue? So what are you talking about in terms of timeframe? A
year? Two, three, four? That's my question to you.

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, I want to make clear that as far as the U.S. is
concerned we would certainly like to see a successor government in
Iraq. As President Clinton said in his very important speech last
night, which I again would recommend to all viewers to review, he made
a comment about Iraq that he -- that we look forward to the day when
Iraq had a government that was reflective of and the kind of
government the Iraqi people deserve. We all agree with that, because
it is clear that Saddam Hussein runs an authoritarian police state,
there is no freedom for the Iraqi people. There are all kinds of
problems with regard to the nature of the regime. It is a totalitarian
police state, and we object in principle to that kind of regime. And I
think that if they had their choice I assume the Iraqi people would
object as well, and would like to see a government where normal
citizens could have freedom and the ability to express themselves,
which is completely lacking in Iraq now.

But with regard to the United Nations relationship with Iraq, that
focuses on this question of weapons of mass destruction that I was
talking about earlier, and there the international community is also
-- has been and continues to be united that those weapons have to be
eliminated from the Iraqi arsenal. Thank you.

MR. KHATIB: We have a caller in Paris, and the question is in English.
Go ahead please.

Q: Yes my question is the United States are concerned about the safety
of the Middle East. Why don't they start with Israel? Despite their
propaganda about Iraq, they know very well Iraq doesn't have any
chemical or biological weapons. The best thing for the United States
is to change their policy towards all Arabs and be more respected
instead of rejected. Their popularity right now comes to zero. And I
wish they'd look, and look very carefully, in their policy, because
killing the Arab is not fun. They should start with -- not use the
United Nations and manipulate the United Nations when they want to
bomb. They don't take any permission -- they just go and do it. And
then when they want something they say, Well, Iraq doesn't respect the
United Nations rules. This is not true. This is United States policy
toward the Middle East. Start with the Israelis, and then Iraq -- you
know very well they don't have it, and lift the sanctions and be
respected more than rejected. Thank you very much.

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, I'm glad to get that question, because I want to
object right away to its basic premise, with all due respect to the
questioner and the position she stated.

I don't think that anyone who seriously follows events in the Middle
East would assume that the U.S. first of all is -- doesn't care about
developments in the Middle East. I think one only has to look at all
the efforts which my government has put in over so many years with
regard to the Palestinian and Israeli negotiations. These crystallized
successfully in the Wye agreement in October, and it is my
government's view that those agreements need to be fully implemented.
And I think that nothing could have been clearer about the U.S.
government position than was reflected in President Clinton's recent
visit to Gaza, where he was very well received both by the Palestinian
Authority but also by the Palestinian people. And I think that is
reflective of the fact that the U.S. is committed to having strong and
positive relations both with the Arab side of the dispute in the
Middle East as well as with Israel. Israel is a long-standing and
close ally of the United States, and that is not going to change. But
that does not mean that the U.S. is not fully committed to moving the
peace process forward. We are, and we are working hard at it. It's a
very tough negotiation for all the obvious reasons. These are complex
issues and highly emotional as well as political issues with regard to
the Israeli and Palestinian relationship in particular. But we are
fully committed at the highest level to pursuing that.

And one other point, which is not a small point: I do not agree with
the caller's view that Iraq -- that everyone knows that Iraq has no
biological weapons or chemical weapons. In fact, to the extent we know
about those systems, we know they do have such weapons still. And the
problem has been that from -- as I mentioned earlier, from day one
really, 1990, Iraq has been concealing and denying this. So just to
repeat one more time: the way out of this problem for Iraq is to give
up these weapons of mass destruction. And that will cause substantial
changes in the way the United Nations Security Council deals with
Iraq.

MR. KHATIB: We have several viewers standing by. We will come back to
you. We have a question now from el-Hayat (sp) in London. Go ahead
with your question please.

Q: Yes, Mr. Burleigh. We have heard time and again from the United
States that Iraq still is in possession of chemical and biological
weapons. In your operations in December you said that the aim of these
air raids and the aim of the missile strikes is to destroy Saddam's
capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. So one presumes
that you know their locations and therefore you have probably managed
in destroying whatever he was left with. Now, this is a bone of
contention. UNSCOM has turned out to be an espionage organization and
the Washington Post said recently that the U.S. has used information
through UNSCOM to pinpoint targets which you struck. Now the Russians
are saying Iraq has completed disarmament more or less -- 95 percent
-- and you are saying otherwise. And there is a split in the Security
Council over this issue. There is China, Russia and France in one camp
and you and the British are in the other camp. How do you propose to
give Iraq any sign of light at the end of the tunnel? I mean, Iraq is
living in real hell because of your obstinacy, because of this
insistence in carrying on with the sanctions.

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, I would say that some people in New York have
said to get light at the end of the tunnel the person with his hand on
the light switch -- that is, that would turn the light on -- is Saddam
Hussein. And the reason I say that -- it's not a joke, that's the
reality here -- because what is missing in your statement is the
responsibility of the Iraqi authorities to comply with their
obligations under the resolutions, and that is to demonstrate to the
international community that they really have ridded themselves of
these weapons of mass destruction, and in particular of the biological
and chemical files, and especially the biological file is of deep
concern across the board in New York and throughout -- any expert on
Iraqi armaments question, I think of any nationality, would tell you
that there are very deep concerns and questions about it and what
information does exist leads to the conclusion that there are residual
facilities and ingredients of these programs in Iraq.

I would like you to remember, if you would, that for example when the
commissioners of UNSCOM meet, or when they have these meetings they
call TEMs, technical evaluation meetings, which they've had four or
five of in 1998, and these are experts from Russia, from France, from
China, from all over the rest of the world where there are experts on
these very sophisticated programs that Iraq had developed, they all
have agreed on this assessment. This is not just a U.S. assessment.
I'd like to underscore that, because it's very important to this
debate. When you ask technical experts -- in other words, not
politicians -- and take the politics out of this question -- but if
you ask technical experts what is known about the Iraqi BW program,
they all express deep concerns on that front. So I wanted to make that
point. And if it's true that the Russians are arguing that Iraq has
completed its disarmament -- I haven't actually heard them say that
exactly, but it does seem to be implied in at least part of the
proposal they made last week -- we disagree. We don't think that is
accurate, and we don't think any objective assessment done by any
international body of arms control experts would agree with that
assessment.

Where they would agree is that there are a large number of unanswered
questions, and there is some evidence that points to the conclusions I
mentioned earlier, which is there is good reason to be concerned in
the international community. And we are going to insist, because of
our interest in stability in the region and because of our commitments
to the countries in the region, we are going to insist that these
programs be fully documented before we move on the sanctions question.

MR. KHATIB: Thank you el-Hayat (sp) in London. Now we go to ANN in
London. Go ahead with your question please.

Q: Thank you. Ambassador, many persons see that the concept of food
for oil was launched by the United States not for really humanitarian
reasons and lessening the sufferings, but in order for the United
States to stave off an accusation that they are just launching this
against Iraq, that they would like to show that they really care about
the sufferings in Iraq. This program came two years after the
sanctions were already in place. What's your take on that?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, I reject that accusation. The reason that the
U.S. took the lead in the Security Council was specifically and
pointedly out of concern for the Iraqi people. And we have been in the
forefront in the expansions of those programs and the improvements to
target -- or our attempts to target and focus on for example the
children or the elderly have been at the core of the U.S. position,
and we have always been in the lead in that regard in the Security
Council, as reflected against last week in the proposals we made.

And the difference here is I think it would be good to look at the
role of the government of Iraq here when it has resources that are
available to it and look where those resources go. For example, Iraq
smuggles a lot of gas oil out of the refinery in Basra. It goes out by
ship through the Persian Gulf. This is well known and well documented
that there are substantial amounts of oil smuggled. This is not under
the oil-for-food program in other words; these are illegal exports out
of Iraq. Where does that money go? I think if you look carefully
you'll find that -- I've forgotten now exactly the number, but another
nine palaces have been built -- marble is being imported by Saddam
Hussein and his family and those immediately around him -- amongst his
military supporters and so on.

So there is a very serious and very important question here about the
priorities of the Iraqi authorities here. Are their people their
priorities or are their own perks and benefits and their weapons of
mass destruction their priorities? And our assessment is -- our
observation of their performance and behavior over the full eight
years since the Gulf War is that their priority is on themselves,
their own luxury items and their own sort of lifestyle as we call it
here in America, plus maintaining their military capabilities. And the
people of Iraq rank very low in their priorities. And it's because of
that that the international community has had to involve itself in
this program. It's because of that human concern that the U.S. has
taken the position we have on the oil-for-food program.

MR. KHATIB: Colleagues at ANN, are you still there? More questions
coming in?

Q: Ambassador, you talk about priorities of the Iraqi regime. Food for
oil, as you state, is launched in cooperation and concurrence with the
Iraq government. Would this say that there is confidence between you
and the Iraqi government to such an extent that you allow and trust
the Iraqi government to distribute food and medicine resources? Are
you convinced that these resources would reach the people, and it is
really a part of the priorities of the Iraqi regime?

AMB. BURLEIGH: No. We have a low level of confidence, and that's why
we insist that the United Nations monitor both the warehousing, the
stockpiling of these things, these items, both food and medicine, and
also are responsible for reporting back to the Security Council about
the distribution. Because what happens is, as you rightly point out,
the program of purchases is proposed by the government of Iraq, it is
approved by the United Nations in New York, and then the Iraqi
authorities are the ones who negotiate the contracts and make the
arrangements for the delivery. But all of that is monitored by the
U.N. And we have insisted that the U.N. keep a very close eye on
exactly where those resources go, because consistently throughout the
history of the program there have been problems with regard to the
distribution of goods which were in Iraq. And I'll point again to what
I mentioned earlier, that is with regard to the medicines that are
being stockpiled, as we have learned in the latest report. We don't
understand why that's the case, of there are actual shortages in
hospitals or in health facilities around the country. We don't
understand why they aren't distributed, and we are pressing in the
U.N. to get the U.N. more active in really forcing the Iraqi
authorities to distribute those goods which are there in Iraq so that
we can be sure that they get to the Iraqi people who need them.

MR. KHATIB: We have more questions. Go ahead now with your question
please.

Q: Why the distribution and all the logistical issues for food for oil
would not be launched directly by the committee and not the Iraqi
government?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Because the practical reality is that for this program
to work there has to be cooperation from the Iraqi authorities. Its
through the ministries of the government of Iraq that these programs
are managed and are implemented. The U.N. -- the number of U.N.
employees in Iraq is about 400 total, and that is to do everything
that the U.N. is supposed to be doing in Iraq under the -- broadly
speaking -- under the humanitarian program.

So to take on the burden and the responsibility of distributing would
be an enormous task for the United Nations and would require I suppose
tens of thousands of United Nations officials there. And, secondly,
frankly, the Iraqi authorities have agreed to cooperate in this regard
on the understanding that the Iraqi government would be the mechanism
for the distribution. And in principle we have no problem with that if
they did an efficient and honest and straightforward distribution. Our
concern has been in checking that to see whether those goods are
actually getting to the people who deserve them.

MR. KHATIB: ANN, more questions please?

Q: How about the interest of the Iraqi people, why the United Nations
would not take an initiative to show to allow Iraqis to invest the
amounts reached within the program of oil for food without having this
period of a year or two? Why don't you act immediately?

AMB. BURLEIGH: I'm not sure I understand the question fully.

Q: The revenues coming from the oil-for-food program are being
distributed and then a part of it is earmarked for reparations and the
other part is for the cost of the administrative program. And then
what's left over will take care of the Iraqi people. Why don't you and
the United Nations show good will by giving up a part of this
reparations for a year or two in order to give that window through
which you can distribute more medicine and the food support, and the
money earmarked for food and medicine would be increasingly more, if
you curb that year or two for reparations?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, this is a very interesting question, and one of
the proposals we made last week was at least to explore perhaps to see
if there were a way of borrowing some funds from one or another of the
accounts that the U.N. holds with regard to Iraq. But I want to make
clear that the compensation -- or as you say reparations, but it's
really compensation -- is a very important part of this oil-for-food
program, and it impacts on a lot of individuals, a lot of individuals
who were working in Iraq and Kuwait who were present in Kuwait and/or
present in Iraq during the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait --
individuals from I think as many as 50 different countries around the
world -- a lot of them are poor -- and they lost everything when they
were evacuated. So this compensation is going to those individuals
around the world -- in India, in Pakistan, in Sri Lanka and
Bangladesh, as well as the Palestinians who were resident in Kuwait.
There are large numbers of Egyptians and others from the region who
were there either in Kuwait or in Iraq and who are benefiting from
this program and who have already been waiting eight years if they
haven't received compensation for what they lost during the time of
the invasion. So that's one thing.

And there are also claims from governments and from companies that
Iraq owes a lot of money to that have to be taken care of. They all
demand attention. And so we have to balance the requirements for those
needs versus the funds that are available for the oil-for-food program
inside Iraq.

MR. KHATIB: We have a viewer from Saudi Arabia. Go ahead with your
question please.

Q: I would like to address a question to Ambassador Burleigh. My
question is why don't you distribute aid to the Iraqi people via other
institutions like the Red Cross or the Arab Crescent, and not the
Iraqi regime that is unable or inept to do that? So I would suggest
that the American administration starting thinking of a new mechanism
using humanitarian organizations to deliver aid directly to the Iraqi
people. That's my question, and thank you.

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, thank you. I'll send that recommendation to my
colleagues for study. But again I do want to make the point that in
any of these programs inside Iraq there has to be at least a minimal
level of cooperation from the Iraqi authorities who after all control
the place. And if they won't cooperate it's hard to imagine how a
program could be successful.

I will point out that the oil-for-food program as it's implemented in
the northern part of Iraq is done by the United Nations directly, not
through the Iraqi ministries, and that program is working much more
efficiently frankly than the program in the central and southern part
of Iraq.

MR. KHATIB: A call from a viewer of ANN in the Netherlands. Go ahead
please.

Q: Hello. My question is to his excellency. As we all know, the Iraqi
regime committed dozens and endless numbers of relations since it came
to existence. In 1980 they attacked the city of Halabja and killed
over 10,000 persons, mostly women and children, as his excellency
stated. Last year they arrested over 180,000 persons. And some (leaks
in the news ?) after what happened in 1991 that among those 180,000
several of them were buried alive in the desert of southern Iraq. And
if the skulls of these persons we find, you would see that it is more
-- (inaudible). I am asking you, ambassador, all this happened before
the invasion of Iraq to Kuwait, and the American government is well
informed of all of this and they refused to denounce and condemn the
Iraqi regime at the time. Only after Iraq invaded Kuwait did you start
talking and raising all this hoopla about the biological and the
chemical weapons. How come you did not try to explore the mass graves
of more than 180,000 persons? And you claim now that you are
protecting the Kurds from the Iraqi regime. Thank you.

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, thank you for that question. The practices of the
Iraqi government, as the caller has pointed out, since Saddam Hussein
came into power have been a big problem and major atrocities have been
committed, as the caller has reminded us, including in Halabja -- I
think that was 1988 or thereabouts -- and also the arrests. Those
kinds of arbitrary arrests are part of the basic structure of the
Iraqi political system that it's a police state as I mentioned
earlier, an authoritarian totalitarian police state.

And I agree that there needs to be accountability with regard to all
of these things, whether they've taken place since 1990 or before, and
that's one of the reasons we have said that we think Saddam Hussein
needs to be held accountable for his crimes against the Iraqi people.

MR. KHATIB: We now move to ANN. Please make your questions brief for
the time.

Q: Ambassador, you state that you don't trust the Iraqi government --
the Iraqi government has no credibility to you in terms of
distribution of food and medicine, which means that the Iraqi people
at the end of the day are the ones who suffer most because of this
sanctions regime. Why don't you try to find a radical and fast, speedy
resolution to consider the preference for the Iraqi people?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, what would that be? I could ask the caller the
question. We have been working very hard over the past several years
with the United Nations to try to make that system as efficient as
possible. And it is -- it has improved dramatically in the last 18
months or so based on the information we have in New York. But there
are still some problems, as I pointed out, which are the
responsibility of the Iraqi authorities. So if the caller has any
suggestions for further improvements we would welcome studying them if
he wanted to send them to us.

MR. KHATIB: A caller in Austria, go ahead please and be brief. Another
question in Holland. Go ahead please, Holland.

Q: I am not in Holland. I am calling from Austria. My question to
Ambassador Burleigh: in your statement, ambassador, you repeated
several times the interests of the Iraqi people, and everyone believes
and everyone knows that the Iraqi people interests have fallen victims
to the interests and the manipulation of the American government in
the area. So my question to you is this: For you in terms of your
priorities in the area, your interest in the area is -- a priority
would be your own interests or the interests of the Iraqi people? In
other words, do you really put forward the interests of the Iraqi
people in your calculations, or just this is a smoke and mirror game
on the part of the American government and administration in order to
keep the situation the way it is in the Middle East, and in order to
keep a process of attrition in the area for your own interests?
Ambassador, do you know until you reach your goals in the area half of
the population of Iraq will perish?

AMB. BURLEIGH: Well, I would like to assure the caller that to the
best of my assessment and the U.S. government assessment there is no
conflict at all between the Iraqi people and the U.S. government and
the U.S. policy in the Middle East.

I would say to the caller that the basic conflict is between Saddam
Hussein and his support structure and the Iraqi people, and that's the
core problem here and that is why we have consistently said we think
that Saddam Hussein should be replaced by a government that is more
representative of the real needs of the Iraqi people.

MR. KHATIB: Viewers, we are sorry that we have only a few brief
moments left. We would like to thank all the broadcasters and all the
viewers and all those still standing by. We do not have time to take
your questions. We hope in the next segment we will. Ambassador
Burleigh, we thank you so much for your contribution with us. We hope
that you will be tuning in and asking your questions. In Washington,
this is Mohanned Khatib thanking you all and signing off.

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