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The following appeared in today's Guardian (the news broke too late to make yesterday's edition). So that means you get a second opportunity to write to the papers ! Letters should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Iraq turns off oil to wrongfoot the UN David Hirst in Beirut and Julian Borger in Washington Wednesday November 24, 1999 Iraq yesterday halted its oil exports in protest at a security council decision last week to grant a very limited extension of the United Nations oil-for-food humanitarian programme - just a token two weeks, rather than the usual six months. Baghdad called the move a "declaration of war". President Saddam Hussein has not made his intentions clear, but UN officials and other observers said they thought the stoppage was a gesture or tactical manoeuvre, and would be short-lived. The possibility cannot be ruled out, however, that Baghdad is resuming the strategy of defiance and confrontation last seen a year ago when Iraq expelled UN disarmament inspectors. An Anglo-American bombing campaign followed. The Iraqi decision immediately drove up the crude oil price to $27 (almost #17) a barrel, its highest since before the 1990-91 gulf war. Andrew Parasiliti, an Iraq specialist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said President Saddam "is playing with a weak hand and one card he has in his hand is oil" to try to get international sanctions on his country eased without agreeing to a full UN weapons-monitoring regime. The oil flow from the Iraqi port of Mina al-Bakr and through the Turkish port of Ceyhan was turned off soon after the security council's decision not to renew the oil-for-food programme (in which Baghdad can sell oil to buy food and medicines) by the usual six months. Iraq said that in a two-week period it could not sign contracts to export oil. But a diplomat in Baghdad said the exports would resume immediately if the council agreed a new six-month deal. The council's decision in New York was part of a long and contentious debate over how UN weapons inspections might be resumed. On the disposal of its weapons of mass destruction, the Iraqi regime has never got the clean bill of health required for the UN to lift the sanctions it imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait. A British-Dutch draft resolution at the UN offers Iraq the prospect of sanctions being suspended after arms inspectors are readmitted. Iraq, with Russian support, wants sanctions lifted as soon as the inspectors arrive. The stop to oil exports came at a time when the diplomatic battle was moving against Baghdad. France, normally sympathetic to Iraq, is said to be leaning towards the British-Dutch resolution, and there were press reports last week that the Russians were offering to go along with this if the US agreed to muffle its criticism of the war in Chechnya -a rumour denied by Moscow. Whatever resolution emerges, Iraq now seems set to reject it. On Sunday the Iraqi leadership issued a statement calling the British-Dutch proposal "an imperialist plan which aims to keep sanctions in place for many years to come". Earlier, the deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, said Iraq would "resist any new UN demands to cooperate with foreign weapons inspectors so long as punishing economic sanctions remain in effect". Yesterday, the Baghdad newspaper al-Jumhuriyah said "all the signs are that what is being prepared is another declaration of war on Iraq. The draft resolution will grant a new disarmament body the same power as the commission of spies" - a reference to the defunct Unscom disarmament body whose return Baghdad categorically rejects. The cut in oil exports will not immediately affect the flow of food and medicine to Iraq. From the $8.3bn (#5bn) it earned under the food-for-oil programme in the last six-month period, Iraq is said to have some $2bn in goods on order and $2bn in reserves. -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Please do not send emails with attached files to the list *** Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html ***