Global Policy Forum

Security Council Extends Iraq

Associated Press
June 1, 2001

In a nod to a U.S.-British plan to restructure sanctions on Iraq, the Security Council extended a humanitarian program there Friday while acknowledging in a resolution that changes must be made to ease life for Iraq's civilians. The 30-day extension of the oil-for-food program gives Washington and London more time to sell their new proposal to other council members. Their plan would allow the flow of civilian goods into Iraq while tightening the arms embargo -- a bid to keep Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from rearming but improve the quality of life for his people.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher announced in Washington that the United States would release more than $800 million worth of supply contracts it had blocked at the United Nations, bringing the total to about $1.2 billion worth of contracts that have been released since the beginning of May. The United States and Britain have been severely criticized for placing what some felt was an excessive number of contracts on hold in the committee that monitors Iraq sanctions. Both countries contend the dual-use items had potential military applications. Having failed to win the quick approval they needed, the English-speaking allies settled for something the three other veto-wielding powers -- Russia, France and China -- would accept. All 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the short-term extension.

The current oil-for-food program, which expires Sunday at midnight, is renewable for up to a six-month period and is an exception to the 11-year-old sanctions against Iraq. Baghdad rejected the council compromise and said it would not sign any new oil contracts over the next 30 days. On Friday, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz summoned the ambassadors of Russia, China and Tunisia to discuss the issue, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

Seen as a compromise, the short-term extension of the oil-for-food program allowed all five countries to claim victory in a vehement debate about the future of sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. A Russian counterproposal for a six-month extension of the oil-for-food program, with several additions designed to please Baghdad, was frowned upon by the United States and Britain. France and China said they needed more time to study the U.S.-drafted lists of military-related items that could be banned from Iraq under the U.S.-British plan.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan discussed the matter in a meeting Friday in Washington. "I hope they will come up with an agreed plan very shortly," Annan said of the Security Council.

The short-term extension would keep the current program in operation until July 3. During that time, the council will discuss the major elements outlined in the U.S.-British draft, including improving the flow of civilian goods to Iraq, tightening controls on prohibited items and preventing illegal oil sales. "That's a pretty solid statement backed by a unified council for the first time in a long time," said acting U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham. "We have an ambitious program ahead of us for the next 30 days." Boucher said the release of the import contracts "will provide civilian goods for civilians in Iraq. It assists the Iraqi public in their endeavors without assisting the Iraqi regime in developing weapons."

The United States is having a rough year at the United Nations. Aside from the failure to push through its new Iraq policy, it lost key seats on the U.N. human rights commission and a drug control board. It did score a key point Friday, however. All council members -- not just the permanent five -- will be included in the upcoming negotiations and the United States and Britain believe that a broader forum will mean a better chance for success.

Restructuring the sanctions against Iraq is among the U.S. government's foremost foreign policy initiatives. Forged in secret, the U.S.-British plan sought to remove most restrictions on trade in consumer goods and materials for rebuilding public services. It would retain control of Iraqi oil profits through U.N.-administered escrow accounts.

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


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