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* US oil lawmakers criticise oil-for-food again (Associated Press) * Iraqi skies quiet, says US (Arabic News) * Iraq Said Paid $800,000 to Primakov (Associated Press) The AP article on US oil-producers' criticism of oil-for-food shows the extent of ignorance that exists about this program, particularly among oil producers who imagine their worldly interests to be under threat. For example: '[oil-for-food] may be harming American producers while not meeting the United States' stated aim of removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power (sic)'. "I for one am suspicious of this program," said Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, top Democrat on the [House Commerce energy and power] subcommittee. "It appears to be born out of an appropriate humane consideration, but may be disruptive of worldwide crude oil markets and could spawn a lot of abuse." Even more limited understanding was demonstrated by the panel's chairman, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who arrived at the conclusion that: "[US] Iraqi policy is designed to maximize Iraqi production at the expense of the marginal producer in the United States." ******************** U.S. House Faults U.N. Oil Program By Michelle Mittelstadt, Associated Press Writer, Friday, March 26, 1999 WASHINGTON (AP) -- Troubled by the depressed condition of the domestic oil and natural gas industry, oil-state lawmakers criticized a U.N. humanitarian program that permits Iraq to add millions of barrels of oil to an already oversupplied market. At a hearing Friday of the House Commerce energy and power subcommittee, lawmakers assailed a U.N. policy that allows Iraq to sell oil for food and medicine, saying it may be harming American producers while not meeting the United States' stated aim of removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power. ``I for one am suspicious of this program,'' said Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, top Democrat on the subcommittee. ``It appears to be born out of an appropriate humane consideration, but may be disruptive of worldwide crude oil markets and could spawn a lot of abuse.'' But a State Department official, who came in for sharp questioning, defended the policy, saying elimination of the oil-for-food program would lead to erosion of support within the worldwide community for continued sanctions against Iraq. ``The sanctions deprive Saddam of the revenue he would otherwise use to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction,'' said Bill Wood, principal deputy assistant secretary of state. ``It is essential that we address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. Doing so is right in itself but also crucial to maintaining Security Council, regional and other international support for the sanctions while we continue our efforts to change the Iraqi regime.'' Economic sanctions were imposed by the U.N. Security Council in 1990 to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait. To ease the sanctions' devastating effect on the Iraqi people, the United Nations launched the oil-for-food program in 1996. France has called for an end to the oil embargo, prompting the administration to counter with a proposal in January that would expand the oil-for-food program, which comes up for Security Council review in May. Congress has no direct say in whether it continues, but some lawmakers are pressuring the administration to seek changes or an end to the policy. Under the program, Iraq is allowed to sell up to $10.4 billion in oil annually, with the proceeds directed by the United Nations for purchases of food, medicine and infrastructure. Iraq, which is producing about 2.5 million barrels per day, has not neared the $10.4 billion ceiling. Administration officials contend that the Iraqi production has a negligible impact on U.S. oil prices, which have been in a serious slump for well over a year. Yet congressional Republicans note that when OPEC recently proposed cutting production by an amount similar to Iraq's output, worldwide crude prices rose by nearly $2 a barrel. The domestic energy industry has shrunk by some 50,000 jobs in the past year or so and producers have closed more than 136,000 marginal oil wells that individually produce less than 15 barrels daily but collectively account for one-fifth of domestic production. The panel's chairman, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, said he has concluded that ``our Iraqi policy is designed to maximize Iraqi production at the expense of the marginal producer in the United States.'' ******************** US: Iraqi skies quiet Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 3/26/99 Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said yesterday that Iraq has not violated the no-fly zones recently, saying, "There have been no violations of the no-fly zone by the Iraqi forces for the last five days or so." He added, "There have not been the provocations that we had seen up until the last week or so. I think it's one of the longest quiet periods we've had since Desert Fox." Bacon said the US continues to patrol the zones, especially the southern zone, though there have been "down days because of weather and other reasons" recently. ******************** Iraq Said Paid $800,000 to Primakov Monday, March 29, 1999; 3:15 a.m. EST NEW YORK (AP) -- Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov received at least $800,000 from the Iraqi government and hindered U.N. efforts to monitor Baghdad's illegal weapons programs, The New Yorker magazine reported. The magazine, in an article by investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, also said the U.S. military attempted to assassinate Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during allied airstrikes last December. The story was reported in the magazine's April 5 edition, which hits newsstands today. According to The New Yorker, Primakov has a close friendship with Saddam dating back to the 1960s, when the Russian official was a correspondent for Pravda in the Middle East. U.N. weapons inspector Rolf Ekeus learned how close that friendship was in 1996 when he alerted Primakov to evidence that Russia was smuggling illegal contraband to Iraq, including materials for the Iraqi nuclear program, The New Yorker said. Primakov, Russia's foreign minister at the time, said his government was not involved in any illegal smuggling, and promised to conduct an investigation, Ekeus was quoted as saying. Ekeus said he never saw the results of any investigation, and that secret codes used by the Russians were subsequently changed. Then, in November 1997, British intelligence found strong evidence of an $800,000 payment to Primakov by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the magazine said. ``A payment was made,'' it quotes an American source as saying. ``This is rock solid.'' According to the report, senior CIA officials had believed for a long time that Primakov was receiving payments from Saddam. In Moscow, Primakov's spokeswoman Tatyana Aristarkhova said she could not comment on The New Yorker article because she had not seen it. The New Yorker also said that the December 1998 bombings of Iraq ordered by President Clinton included an assassination attempt on Saddam by bombing two sites where the Iraqi leader allegedly meets his mistresses. It said the official goal of the attack was to ``degrade'' Iraq's strategic capabilities. U.S. officials did not immediately comment on The New Yorker report. But U.S. officials have denied similar assertions in the past. U.S. policy explicitly prohibits assassinations of foreign leaders. ******************** -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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