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Sevan on 'excessive' holds, complimentarity: "Urgent need (for) fresh approach"

Following is Benon Sevan's clearest statement yet on how the impact of
Committee 661 contractual holds is amplified due to the complimentarity of

"... (holds) accounted for just 10 percent of the total processed but the
nature of the goods required made them essential to the whole operation,
(Sevan) said. 

'You can't distribute supplies if you don't have trucks,'' Sevan said."


U.N. official wants new approach to Iraq programme  
BAGHDAD, Aug. 15 - A senior United Nations official called on Tuesday for a
new approach to overcome obstacles hindering a U.N. humanitarian programme
in Iraq.        
       Benon Sevan, executive director of the Office of the Iraq Programme
(OIP), said an ''excessive'' number of holds by Security Council Sanctions
Committee 661 on purchasing contracts was seriously hindering the
oil-for-food programme. 
       ''There is an urgent look into the implementation of the
programme with a fresh look, with a fresh approach and flexibility,'' Sevan
told a news conference in Baghdad. 
       ''Without breaking rules and procedures, I think we can use the rules
more credibly...there is room for improvement in the behaviour and
performance by all parties,'' he said. ''There has to be a concerted effort
to move forward.'' 
       The OIP is in charge of Iraq's oil-for-food deal with the United
Nations. The programme, which went into effect in December 1996, allows
Baghdad to sell unlimited quantities of oil over six months to buy food,
medicine and other essential needs for the Iraqi people. 
       Iraq has been under economic sanctions since it invaded Kuwait in

       Sevan said that contracts worth $1.7 billion were on hold. They
concerned materials for electricity, telecommunications, transport and water
and sanitation. 
       These contracts accounted for just 10 percent of the total processed
but the nature of the goods required made them essential to the whole
operation, he said. 
       ''You can't distribute supplies if you don't have trucks,'' Sevan
       He said the ratio of holds in the oil industry, the ''bloodline'' of
the whole programme, stood at 21 percent of applications. The holds on
crucial spare parts were threatening the country's oil industry, Sevan said.

       ''Iraq is producing and exporting oil at a very high it is
damaging its wells, some of them irrevocably,'' he said. 
       A senior Iraqi Oil Ministry official said last week that unless spare
parts were approved soon Iraq would have to cut its production level,
currently 3.1 million barrels per day. 
       Asked what could be done to improve the implementation, Sevan said
sanctions committee 661 must remove inconsistencies in its holds policy for
a start and Iraq must choose contractors more carefully. 
       He said his team must also adjust and improve its observation role in
areas under Iraqi control. 

       The U.N. official, who leaves Iraq on Wednesday, said he held ''very
fruitful and cordial'' talks during his two-week visit with Iraqi officials
including Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and ministers. 
       Sevan said under the deal Baghdad had sold oil worth $30.5 billion.
About $20 billion of that amount was allocated for relief goods for the
Iraqi people. 
       The rest goes to a U.N. fund that compensates victims of the 1991
Gulf War and covers the cost of Sevan's 600 staff and those of U.N. weapons
inspection bodies. 
       Iraqi officials and the press have complained about the sluggish
arrival of goods purchased under the humanitarian programme, saying it has
done little to offset the suffering of Iraqis caused by the crippling
       Sevan said around $8.35 billion worth of supplies had arrived in
Iraq. Some $4.2 billion of goods are on the way. 
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