Global Policy Forum

Iraq Gives Priority to Russia,

Jordan Times
July 16, 2001

Iraq will give priority to Russia and Syria in import contracts under the UN oil-for-food programme rather than France which has won the lion's share of deals since 1996, an Iraqi official said Sunday.

"Iraq will intensify (commercial) ties with friendly countries, notably Russia and Syria, for having supported Iraq" in opposing US and British proposals to impose "smart" sanctions on Baghdad, the official told AFP. The official, asking not to be named, said priority would in future also go to Jordan, Egypt and Malaysia.

On July 4, the UN Security Council extended the oil-for-food deal for five months after shelving plans to impose the revised sanctions proposed by Washington and London due to Russian opposition.

Iraq has been under embargo since it invaded Kuwait in 1990 but has been authorised since December 1996 to export oil under UN supervision to finance imports of essential goods for its 22 million population.

Before a vote on smart sanctions was postponed, Iraq warned France it would pay a heavy price for backing the proposals. France won a total of $3.5 billion worth of contracts with Iraq in the first eight phases of the UN humanitarian programme, which normally runs in six-monthly terms, according to official figures. It lost first place to Egypt in the last phase.

French companies, along with firms from Russia and China, have also been negotiating oil development projects in Iraq, which has the world's second largest reserves after Saudi Arabia.

Russia is now expected to win contracts to supply Iraq with oil maintenance equipment, said an Arab diplomat posted in Baghdad, which is authorised to import $600 million of oil spare parts every six months.

Iraq Accuses US of Holding Cargo Ship

Meanwhile, Iraq accused the US navy on Sunday of intercepting a cargo ship bound for the Iraqi port of Um Qasr and holding the vessel for the past two weeks. The ship loaded with 13,000 tonnes of sugar being imported under a UN humanitarian programme was intercepted in Gulf waters on July 2, a commerce ministry spokesman said, without giving the nationality of the vessel.

The spokesman charged it was a "new act of piracy" and proof that the United States "scorns the international laws and conventions that it pretends to defend". The US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain was not available for comment on the report.

Baghdad also accused the United States of intercepting an Iraqi cargo ship in Iraq's territorial waters in the Gulf last month, calling for the United Nations to stop such actions. A US-led multinational fleet patrols Gulf waters to enforce the UN embargo on Iraq.

Iraq Denounces Delay of Health Study

Also Sunday, Iraq denounced the delay of a World Health Organisation visit to investigate the health effects of depleted uranium used during the 1991 Gulf War, the official Iraqi news agency INA said. INA quoted Health Minister Umeed Madhat Mubarak as saying postponement of the WHO team "reflects the United States' hegemony over the international body... and a continuation of its hostile policy against Iraq."

"This strange stand comes after the failure of the United States and Britain to pass their wicked plan to impose stupid sanctions (on Iraq)," Mubarak said. Mubarak blamed a rise in cancers and cases of mental disturbances, miscarriages and congenital defects in Iraq to the use of depleted uranium munitions by the United States and Britain in the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait.

A WHO letter to the Iraqi government said the visit had been delayed "by the lack of necessary United Nations security clearances to visit Baghdad". A UN official said he had no details on what the security clearances entailed. "As soon as this problem is resolved we can establish the dates for the mission," the letter said. UN officials blamed administrative and procedural delays and said they hoped the mission could take place in August or September.

Baghdad has insisted for years that there was a link between depleted uranium used in armour-piercing weapons during the Gulf War and growing incidence of leukaemia and other cancers in Iraq. Baghdad's health ministry says cancer cases increased from 6,555 in 1989 to 10,931 in 1997, especially in areas bombed by US-led forces during the war. NATO's use of ammunition containing depleted uranium in the Balkans has sparked a parallel furore across Europe over allegations that some allied peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo contracted leukaemia from exposure to uranium.

WHO and the 19-nation alliance have insisted there is no evidence that depleted uranium munitions cause cancer.

More Information on the Oil for Food Program
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq
More Information on the Iraq Crisis


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