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- From: ilayg@DELETETHISaol.com (Ilayg)
- Subject: U.S. says some Iraqis get ``oil-for-food'' kickbacks
- Date: 18 Nov 1999 04:16:24 GMTBy Anthony Goodman UNITED NATIONS, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Some Iraqi officials are getting kickbacks from companies supplying food, medicine and other humanitarian goods under the U.N. ``oil-for-food'' programme, the United States charged on Wednesday. Deputy U.S. representative to the United Nations Peter Burleigh told reporters one reason the United States has held up some contracts was because ``we have problems with some companies which engage in what we consider to be illegal trading activities with the government of Iraq -- percentages paid to government of Iraq officials, for example.'' When the United States obtained such information, it explained to the relevant governments ``why we are not going to approve contracts from those companies which are involved in corrupt practices that benefit (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein and his immediate circle.'' Burleigh could not say how many contracts or how much money was involved in the alleged kickbacks. Iraq has repeatedly complained that the United States and Britain are holding up contracts in the Security Council's sanctions committee, which must approve sales of civilian goods to Iraq under the ``oil-for-food'' programme. This allows Baghdad to sell oil up to a specified value every six month to enable it to buy goods needed to ease the impact on ordinary Iraqis of U.N. sanctions in force since Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The Security Council discussed behind closed doors on Wednesday how to proceed with the next six-month phase of the programme after the current phase expires on November 20. The head of the U.N. programme, Under-Secretary-General Benon Sevan, told council members that, as of November 15, the value of applications placed on hold amounted to $1.042 billion compared with approved applications worth $8.770 billion since the start of the programme three years ago. He said 17 of the 602 contracts on hold accounted for 43 percent of the total value but gave no details. Sevan quoted officials of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as estimating that holds affecting food production items resulted in significant reductions in the use of land for grain crops and the loss of as much as 20,000 tons of wheat production. The FAO also estimated that delays in the arrival of vaccines had resulted in the loss of around seven million tons of meat, he added. If holds were released on contracts related to power generation, ``Iraq could potentially achieve a 50 percent increase in electricity supply,'' said Sevan, whose briefing notes were later made public. Burleigh cited Sevan telling the council that ``more than 50 percent of the holds on contracts now'' were due to lack of full technical information from the Iraqi government and its suppliers. Another reason for the holds, Burleigh said, was ``deep concern about dual-use items ... and the end-use of certain equipment on the ground in Iraq, once it arrives.'' He was referring to items that could be put to both commercial and, potentially, military uses. Such items used to be monitored by U.N. weapons inspectors, who have not been allowed back in the country for nearly a year. According to Sevan's notes, he also appealed to council members to find ways to protect Iraqis ``against poor performance by some suppliers who, once paid in total for the supplies reaching the borders of Iraq,'' felt no obligation either to replace defective supplies or to reimburse the U.N. Iraq account through which payments are made. While the U.N. is barred from involvement in commercial relations and contractual disputes, ``we simply cannot wash our hands or hide behind rules and procedures,'' he said.