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ASSOCIATED PRESS AND REUTERS ARTICLES FOR THE PERIOD 25 TO 27 SEPTEMBER ----------------------------------------------------- SEPTEMBER 25, 03:33 EDT France Blames US for Iraq Situation By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Writer NEW YORK (AP) - France is blaming the United States and Britain for the collapse of the U.N. weapons inspections program in Iraq but says it still wants to join the two nations in an effort to restore it. If Britain, France and the United States - the three Western members of the Security Council - can reach a consensus, Russia and China will join along, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said Friday. Vedrine's comments indicated France was trying to distance itself from Russia and China, with whom France is often linked on Iraqi matters, and place itself more as a middle-ground negotiator as the council tries to end a nearly yearlong stalemate over weapons inspections. U.N. arms inspections ground to a halt in mid-December when the United States and Britain launched airstrikes to protest what they said was Baghdad's failure to cooperate with inspectors of the U.N. Special Commission. Iraq has refused to allow UNSCOM inspectors back, and has demanded that the council immediately lift sanctions imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait - a position repeated Friday by Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf in his speech to the General Assembly. Russia, China and France have tabled a draft resolution that would suspend all sanctions if Iraq cooperates with a new commission to monitor its banned weapons programs. Britain and the Netherlands have in turn introduced a resolution, supported by the United States, which would suspend only the oil embargo on Iraq if Baghdad answers key questions about its weapons programs. Vedrine said the five permanent members of the council have come closer on the issue of the financial controls that would be implemented to ensure that proceeds from oil sales didn't fund new arms purchases. But there were still differences over what would trigger the sanctions suspension, he said. Vedrine was highly critical of the U.S. position on sanctions - saying France was consistently surprised ``that the United States is so insensitive to the human catastrophe under way in Iraq. ``Iraq is not just made up of Saddam Hussein himself,'' he said. ``There are men, women and children - a whole society which is being destroyed.'' Vedrine also lashed out at what he considered the root of the current crisis - the December airstrikes. ``We were not the ones to put an end to and destroy the previous control mechanism,'' he said. ``We did not take any initiatives or unilateral measures.'' In his speech to the assembly, al-Sahaf accused the United States of using the United Nations for its own political goals. ``The United States deliberately works for maintaining the embargo and doubling the suffering of the people of Iraq, despite the disappearance of all the reasons that led to the imposition of the embargo,'' he charged. Deputy U.S. Ambassador Peter Burleigh rejected the accusation, telling the assembly at the end of the meeting that the United States was committed to helping the Iraqis through the U.N. humanitarian program. He urged they look at the ``wider problem of Saddam Hussein cynically creating a humanitarian crisis for political gain.'' ----------------------------------- Monday September 27 1:19 PM ET Western Military Aircraft Bomb Northern Iraq BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi military spokesman said Western planes bombed a civilian target in northern Iraq Monday, but the U.S. European Command said the aircraft had attacked anti-aircraft batteries after being fired on. The Iraqi spokesman, quoted by the official Iraqi News Agency, said U.S. and British aircraft flew 22 sorties over northern Iraq at 12:15 p.m. local time, and had bombed a civilian target. He did not mention any casualties. The United States' European Command, based in Germany, said in a statement its planes had bombed anti-aircraft batteries north of the city of Mosul in self-defense after being fired on. All allied aircraft returned safely, it said, and damage to the Iraqi sites was being assessed. In the south of Iraq, the Baghdad spokesman said, Iraqi units fired surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns at ''enemy crows'' and forced them to retreat to bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. U.S. and British planes patrol no-fly zones over Iraq's north and south. The exclusion zones were imposed by the West after the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait to protect opponents of President Saddam Hussein. The raid was the latest in a series of clashes -- the last was Saturday -- involving American and British military aircraft and Iraqi air defenses. The clashes began after Baghdad said in December that it would not recognize the no-fly zones. -------------------------------------- Monday September 27, 4:51 pm Eastern Time FOCUS-Oil hits fresh 32-month highs on OPEC, Iraq exports LONDON, Sept 27 (Reuters) - World oil markets held firm on Monday after powering to fresh 32-month highs on technicals and news that Iraq would surpass its $5.26 billion oil sales limit in early October. London Brent futures for November closed 17 cents higher on the day at $24.07 a barrel after steaming ahead to a high of $24.18 after the release of U.N. figures showing that on Friday, Iraqi oil exports were $695 million short of hitting their six-month limit. Using the four-week averages of price and exports, Iraq will exceed the sales target allowed by the UN by October 8. Iraqi oil exports under the current six-month phase of the ``oil-for-food'' programme, which ends November 20, reached 2.63 million barrels per day in the week to September 24. The upward move in London, which was not mirrored in New York, was helped by a rally late last week when OPEC voted to leave export restrictions in place. Analysts said OPEC's decision to maintain 4.3 million barrels a day of supply curbs until April looked likely to push prices higher again as inventories were depleted in coming weeks. ``The outcome of the meeting almost assures the world of a serious stockdraw over the next 90 days,'' said independent U.S. oil consultant Philip Verleger in a note to clients. Dealers on Monday said they remained wary of political pressure in the United States to release oil from the national strategic petroleum reserve. The U.S. Department of Energy said on Friday there was no need to consider a sale from the reserve because commercial heating oil stocks were sufficient. A U.S. senator, Charles Schumer of New York, had called for a release of oil to counter OPEC export curbs calling them nothing less than ``economic warfare.'' ``Ultimately any sale from the reserve will be politically motivated and for that reason we would not rule out pressure for such a sale increasing over the coming months,'' said Lawrence Eagles of oil brokers GNI. The risk of a big price reversal led by speculative hedge funds was reduced on Friday when U.S. statistics showed a decline from the record purchase positions held by speculators. The Commodities and Futures Trading Commission said speculators' net long positions in U.S. light crude futures had fallen nine percent to 71,500 contracts in the two weeks to September 21. Prices in dollars per barrel: Sept 27 Sept 24 (close) (close) IPE Nov Brent 24.07 23.91 NYMEX Nov light crude 24.61 24.80 --------------------------------------- __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? 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