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Iraqis Struggle to Cope With Power Outages

Iraqis Struggle to Cope with Power Outages


BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqis, hard-hit by U.N. trade sanctions, are
struggling to cope with increasingly frequent power outages caused by
lack of spare parts for generators. 

Power outages have increased from four to sometimes 10 hours a day,
halting air conditioning units in a country where temperatures in
summer reach above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Iraqi officials say power generating systems are working at less than
half capacity and if spare parts purchased under an oil-for-food deal
with the U.N. do not arrive in time, even that level cannot be

Iraq is under stringent U.N. sanctions imposed for its 1990 invasion of

Baghdad's deal with the United Nations, which allows it to sell $5.26
billion worth of oil over six months to buy relief needs for Iraqis, so
far has allocated nearly $500 million for the purchase of electricity
generating equipment. 

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the Security
Council Monday that only $87 million worth of power spare parts had
been distributed or installed in the center and south of Iraq. 

Some $17 million was distributed in northern Iraq under Kurdish rebels'
control since the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait. 

Annan said that although the oil deal had helped in improving power
output, "the overall increase at the level of the national grid has
been negligible." 

The Baghdad government has launched an ambitious five-month program to
maintain the war-wrecked national grid. The drive will end this month
but officials at the Iraqi Industry Ministry do not expect any
improvement this summer. 

With its deteriorating power systems, Baghdad has abandoned earlier
plans to link its national grid with three Arab countries and Turkey.
Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey signed accords in Baghdad in 1994
to push ahead with the $450 million project. 

In Baghdad, outages are arranged according to a timetable announced in
advance. Cuts in the capital's various districts are carried out in

Residents of Baghdad tend to visit friends or relatives in districts
still supplied with electricity when hit with a blackout in their own
homes, returning when power is restored. 

In Baghdad's main open market, stall-holders are doing a roaring trade
with domestic power generators that are sold at hugely inflated prices.
The Japanese- or Chinese-made generators are imported from the United
Arab Emirates. 

Iraq's power stations were heavily bombed by U.S.-led multinational
forces that evicted Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991. The country
suffered no blackouts in the first three years after the war but
outages have increased recently. 

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