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Ease Iraq sanctions, says Saudi

Seeing the report below, interesting in itself, made me wonder some more
about the oil economics involved. I don't know much about economics, but I
had thought that Saudi Arabia stood to lose a lot of oil revenue if the
Iraq oil embargo was lifted (which makes the Saudi concerns voiced below
all the more powerful). On the other hand, we also hear that Iraq's oil
industry is unable to export even the limited amount of oil it is
permitted to under oil-for-food. Presumably then, in the short term (until
Iraq's oil infrastructure is rebuilt), lifting the oil embargo wouldn't
affect oil prices and other oil-producing states wouldn't immediately lose


BBC online
Monday, January 11, 1999 Published at 01:31 GMT

Ease Iraq sanctions, says Saudi 

Saudi is concerned about the effects on Iraqi population

Saudi Arabia has proposed the lifting of the oil embargo on Iraq to
alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people. 

Foreign ministers from the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation
Council discussed the Saudi plan in Jeddah on Sunday, but the meeting
ended without a final statement. 

A senior Saudi official said restrictions on military sales should remain,
but Iraq should be allowed to sell oil and other commodities freely, so
that the Iraqi people would no longer be made to suffer for the sins of
their rulers. 

The initiative comes despite renewed Iraqi criticism of Saudi Arabia and
Kuwait for providing bases for US and British aircraft during the
airstrikes on Iraq last month. 

The Jeddah talks were intended to bring about a consensus before a meeting
in Cairo later this month to prepare for a full Arab summit on Iraq. 

Iraq is allowed by the UN to export $5.26bn worth of oil every six months
to buy food and medicine, but correspondents say the so-called
"oil-for-food" deal has not brought about any appreciable improvement in
the condition of ordinary Iraqis. 

Baghdad complains the UN sanctions committee still blocks or holds up
essential humanitarian supplies. 

At their summit last month, the GCC countries, of which Saudi Arabia is
the largest and most influential member, called on Iraq to commit itself
to implementing all UN resolutions to bring about the relaxation of

Disarray of international allies

The BBC's Middle East Analyst, Roger Hardy, points out that Saudi Arabia
is airing this point of view at a time of bitter criticism from Baghdad
about the role of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the recent US and UK air
attacks on Iraq.

Our analyst suggests that the reported proposal does broadly reflect
official Saudi feelings towards the Iraqi situation, although he doubts
whether it has a chance of being adopted as Gulf policy.

Kuwait remains firmly against any easing of the embargo against Iraq and
initiatives by individual GCC states need to be endorsed by all six to
become policy. 

Saudi Arabia and other US allies in the region have found themselves in an
awkward position as opposition to US policy on Iraq has hardened among
some Arab populations.

The Saudi proposals come on the same day as an article by the
controversial former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

Ritter alleges Washington has subverted and ultimately destroyed the
credibility of Unscom, the UN special commission charged with disarming
Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, by using Unscom data to support last
month's raids.

Roger Hardy concludes that while Baghdad remains defiant, international
policy on Iraq is in disarray.

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