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Observer: UK acts to boost oil-for-food relief to Iraq

UK acts to boost oil-for-food relief to Iraq
Patrick Wintour, Political Editor of The Observer, Sunday March 28, 1999

Britain has launched an initiative to boost the UN's oil-for-food
programme in Iraq in the face of mounting evidence of a humanitarian

Ministers are also responding to growing criticism that continuing air
strikes in Iraq amounts to an undeclared war in which the only losers are
the Iraqi people.

In a confidential paper sent to the UN with the authority of the Foreign
Office Minister Derek Fatchett, the Government admits 'the needs of the
Iraqi people are not being met by the oil-for-food programme'. It blames
the fall in world oil prices and Iraq's failing oil infrastructure.

It suggests bringing the large illegal oil exports programme to Turkey
within the programme. It also proposes reducing, for a fixed time, the
amount of revenue from the programme siphoned to the Compensation
Commission, the UN body charged with distributing Iraqi revenues to
governments and individuals who suffered during the Iraqi invasion of

Britain is also proposing an Iraq Task Force, under UN auspices, with
specialists who will advise the programme on how to improve oil,
electricity and agricultural output. It also wants improved nutrition
advice given and possibly the greater use of UN personnel to help with the
distribution of food and medicines.

The Government is especially pressing this proposal in northern Iraq where
the paper concedes that some foods are taking a year to reach.

Britain is also proposing stimulating the Iraqi agricultural sector by
allowing money generated from oil to be spent on local produce, rather
than imported food.

Sanctions have been applied against Iraq since 1991 over the Iraqi
government's continued failure to hand over all its weapons of mass
destruction. Iraq is allowed to export some oil in return for food and

Ministers insist they are not acting in response to criticism of the
continuing US-UK bombing campaign in Iraq, but the initiative may also do
something to lessen the impression that the US and UK have become
committed to a policy of air strikes against dictators, regardless of the
consequences for the civilian population.

More than 100 US and UK attacks have been mounted all inside the
northern or southern no-fly zones of Iraq.

Colin Rowat
Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

King's College                                                 
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England                                 fax: +44 (0)1223 335 219

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