Number of UN Contracts Delayed at $1.8 Bln


November 18, 1999

Baghdad - Iraq accused the United States and Britain on Thursday of blocking more than 1,000 contracts worth $1.8 billion signed under its oil-for-food deal with the United Nations.

"Some 1,015 contracts worth $1.8 billion that Iraq has signed under phases five and six of the oil-for-food and medicine program have not been approved yet," the official Iraqi News Agency quoted a Trade Ministry source as saying. At the United Nations, however, the official figures released this week were $1.042 billion worth contracts on hold, most of them from the United States.

Of the 389 contracts on hold, 337 are from the United States, 23 are from both the United States and Britain, and 29 are from Britain alone, according to U.N. lists disclosed by diplomats. The trade ministry source quoted in Baghdad said there was more than $2.5 billion in Iraq's account to cover such contracts.

The oil pact, which went into effect in December 1996, allows Iraq to sell $5.26 billion worth of oil over six months to buy food and medicine. The current phase six of the deal expires Saturday. The U.N. Security Council is discussing a resolution that would extend the program for another six months.

The source said the contracts on hold covered such sectors as transport, communications, oil, trade, water and sewerage, irrigation, education and industry.

Iraq has regularly accused the U.N. committee in charge of approving its contracts of blocking purchases of some materials needed to alleviate the sufferings of its people under U.N. sanctions in force since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 provoked the Gulf War.

U.S. envoy Peter Burleigh told reporters at the United Nations on Wednesday the United States held back contracts because the material could have dual use for military purposes, the paperwork was faulty and because some of the companies involved gave kickbacks to Iraqi officials.

The United Nations has linked lifting the embargoes to an accounting of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Security Council members are deadlocked on the issue of how to ease the sanctions in exchange for Iraq allowing arms inspectors back into the country.

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