Global Policy Forum

Iraq Vote Discredits United Nations - France

Reuters/Amman Jordan Times
December 7,1999

Paris - France said on Monday the United Nations had discredited itself by cutting the Iraqi oil-for-food programme to just one week, adding that the new resolution would do nothing to ease Iraq's "catastrophic" humanitarian situation. The programme usually runs for six months, but a divided Security Council voted late on Friday to reduce the timescale involved. France refused to vote, an extremely rare move, while three other countries abstained.

"The terms of the resolution were deliberately unrealistic," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Was it reasonable to vote on a text which one knows cannot materially be carried out? We think that the Security Council has discredited itself by adopting this text." The Foreign Ministry said it took at least two weeks to execute Iraqi oil sales, with a further week needed to buy and distribute humanitarian aide. "A renewal of less than three weeks blocks the humanitarian measures. The humanitarian situation (in Iraq) remains catastrophic," it said.

The United States and Britain hoped the one-week stop-gap measure would put pressure on countries such as France and Russia to approve a comprehensive resolution for Iraq rather than haggle over the content of the oil-for-food program. The resolution, which the U.S. wants to see adopted before the end of the year, involves a resumption of U.N. weapons inspections in exchange for an eventual suspension of sanctions, imposed when Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

France is believed to be furious over the attempt to link the oil-for-food with the question of a long-term accord. An influential Iraqi newspaper said on Sunday that Iraq should sever ties with France if it voted in favour of the new draft resolution on Iraqi disarmament. Babel, newspaper of President Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday, also said French oil firms should be asked to leave Iraq if Paris voted in favour of the proposal.

France and the other four permanent U.N. Security Council members are divided over how far Iraq must be required to go in cooperating with U.N. weapons inspections before it can qualify for a suspension of the stringent economic sanctions. Inspections were suspended last December following U.S. and British air attacks on Iraq.

Baghdad stopped shipping oil in the oil-for-food programme on Nov. 24 to protest against a two-week Security Council extension of the programme on Nov. 19, saying it needed a regular six-month rollover to plan properly. The original oil-for-food program usually allows Iraq to sell $5.26 billion of oil over six months to buy food, medicine and other goods.

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