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USIS Washington File

28 October 1999

Security Council Must Scrutinize Oil-For-Food Purchases, U.S. Says

(Burleigh: Money must go to help Iraqi people, not weapons program)
(1260)
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The United States October 28 appealed to Security
Council members to uphold their responsibilities to have an
oil-for-food program that meets the basic needs of the Iraqi people
but also to stop Iraq from reacquiring weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. Ambassador Peter Burleigh said that the United States puts
so-called "holds" on oil-for-food contracts for a variety of reasons,
first and foremost on dual use items -- those items that can be used
both for civilian or military purposes, specifically with regard to
weapons of mass destruction.

"The world knows that Iraq has a demonstrated commitment to both
sustaining and, if possible, rebuilding its weapons of mass
destruction capabilities," Burleigh pointed out.

"We are very concerned about that and we go over every contract with
that question in mind," the ambassador told journalists after a
private Security Council meeting on the oil-for-food program.

"We balance that with our deep concern about the humanitarian
interests of the Iraqi people," he added.

Burleigh, the deputy U.S. representative to the council, said he "made
an appeal to council members that everyone on the council has the
responsibility to do both -- that is to have a program that meets the
humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people -- which are real."

"Secondly, but not secondarily, at the same time maintain the purpose
of the sanctions and the purpose of the review ... (and) to the extent
possible to stop any import into Iraq of something that would help
their weapons of mass destruction program," the ambassador said.

The current oil-for-food program allows Iraq to sell $5,260 million
worth of oil every six months under strict U.N. supervision with the
proceeds going to buy humanitarian supplies for Iraqi civilians,
provide funds for a U.N. administered program for the northern Kurdish
provinces, pay compensation claims, and help finance weapons
inspections.

The United States and Britain have been criticized for increasing the
number of "holds" on contracts for goods Iraq wants to purchase under
the oil-for food program. All 15 countries who are members of the
Security Council are also members of the Iraqi Sanctions Committee and
review the pending contracts. Secretary General Kofi Annan said
October 25 that 572 contracts worth about $700 million were on hold
awaiting approval.

The Security Council also has been discussing a resolution that would
deal with the creation of an organization to replace the UN Special
Commission overseeing the destruction of Iraqi weapons (UNSCOM) which
was set up under the council's cease-fire resolution 687 at the end of
the Gulf war in 1991 and the mandatory economic sanctions that have
been in place since Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and are linked to the
weapons destruction.

The draft resolution also deals with important questions regarding the
"oil-for-food program," the outstanding issue of 600 Kuwaiti POWs who
have never been accounted for and substantial missing property claims.

One of the important parts of a new resolution, Burleigh said, will be
a "new special commission, whatever it is called, that will have the
same mandate as UNSCOM and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
Both of them monitored dual use items in Iraq for the council and
reported back to the council if they found any discrepancies for the
purpose stated for the dual use item."

Iraq began severely interfering with UN weapons inspections in August
1998, finally forcing UN inspectors to withdraw completely in December
1998, precipitating U.S. and British bombing. UNSCOM has not been
allowed back into Iraq since and weapons experts fear that Iraq has
taken the opportunity presented by the lack of arms inspections to
resume research and production of the banned weapons.

U.S. officials say that Iraq's history of developing and using weapons
of mass destruction, especially chemical and biological weapons, is
such that Washington wants a very intrusive inspection system on the
ground.

Since the arms inspectors left Iraq last year, the United States has
had to be especially careful when reviewing the contracts for supplies
other than food and medicine. The weapons inspectors provided another
level of assurance that the goods were not being diverted for military
purposes, U.S. officials say.

"We felt compelled to be even more rigorous in our reviews because
UNSCOM was the organization under the import/export regime that was
charged with spot checking items of dual use," one U.S. official
noted. "UNSCOM left and it became much more difficult for us in good
faith to approve ... items of a general dual use nature."

At the same time, the complexity of the goods and the needs in Iraq
have changed, adding to the technical review problems, the official
pointed out. Contracts now include not only food, health and
nutrition, which are the priority items, but items for electricity,
water, sanitation, education, agriculture and oil spare parts.

U.S. officials stress that 95 percent of the contracts that have been
submitted, numbering in the thousands, have been approved.

U.S. officials also point out that the United States and Britain are
two of the few delegations on the council with the manpower and
resources to check the contracts.

France, China and Russia, three other countries on the council with
the resources to thoroughly review the contracts, do not do so. The
three, which all do business in Iraq, have also been pressing to ease
sanctions before Iraqi disarmament is completed.

Burleigh said the United States is "more than ready to work with the
UN through the council and UN Office of Iraq Program to look at ways
where there can be UN monitors on the ground in Iraq who could
reassure the Security Council ... that it is in fact there for
civilian purpose."

Burleigh said the U.S. was also going to press the UN's Office of Iraq
Program to ensure that the so-called "food basket" provided under the
program meets the target of 2,400 calories a day as recommended by the
UN. The current food basket is providing 2,100 calories per day.

"We think they should go up to the recommended level," Burleigh said.
"The overall value of the program -- $5.2 billion -- was based on the
UN recommendation that they needed 2,400 calories each day. So we'd
like to insist that be the case," the ambassador said.
 
"Money is not a problem now," Burleigh pointed out. "There is going to
be up to ($7,000 million) in this 6th phase. They bought up to $5,200
million and the council authorized them to use the money that had not
been used in the previous phases so there is no excuse on the
humanitarian front for not meeting these targets."

"So we are expecting Iraq to do that," Burleigh said.

The current 6th phase of the oil-for-food program will end on November
20 and Burleigh said the U.S. is prepared to consider allocating
additional money in phase 7 for spare oil parts to help repair Iraq's
oil industry so it can meet the production targets for the program.

"In our view, as has been the case in the past, those spare parts have
to be directly linked to the humanitarian purposes of the program,"
Burleigh said. On that basis the United States has supported $300
million for oil spare parts in the past three phases of the
oil-for-food program.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)