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Nov. 17, 2000 Dear Rep. McDermott: This is in response to your October 6 letter regarding the situation in Iraq. The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the Iraqi regime following the Persian Gulf War. Sanctions have never targeted the civilian population or prohibited the importation of food or medicine to Iraq. Sanctions are designed to prevent the Iraq regime from reconstituting weapons of mass destruction and again threatening its neighbors. Iraq's movement of elite forces in recent weeks and its threats against the U.S. allies in the Middle East remind us that Iraq remains a threat and underscores the importance of containing its military capability. UN sanctions on Iraq have been effective in achieving that. The U.S. has focused on addressing humanitarian needs in Iraq since the Gulf War. In the war's aftermath, the U.S. led a coalition effort to provide food and disaster aid on a mass scale and instituted no-fly zones to prevent future large scale use of force against Iraq's people. In 1991, the U.S. proposed the Oil-for-Food program (OFF), the largest humanitarian program in UN history, which allows Iraq to export oil to use the proceeds to purchase food, medicine and humanitarian goods. Baghdad rejected the program until 1995, and then was slow to put it into effect. Since its first aid delivery in 1997, there have been well-documented improvement in health and nutrition levels in Iraq. Per capita intake is up from 1,300 calories per day before OFF's inception to over 2,000. Food imports are now at pre-war levels. Before the program began, Iraq imported about $50 million worth of medicines. Over the past three years, more than one billion dollars of medicines and health supplies have been approved. Over a billion dollars of goods for the water, sanitation, electrical and agricultural sectors have been approved. OFF's impact has been greatest in the north, where the UN, not the Iraqi government, administers the program. According to a UNICEF study last year, infant mortality is lower now than before the war. In south and central Iraq, where the Iraqi government distributes OFF goods, infant mortality is more than double pre-war levels. The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iraq's August report also notes that as a result of recent improvements of OFF, more revenue is available to buy humanitarian goods but that the regime fails to fully utilize them; Iraq's government directs medicines to hospitals for privileged officials; abuses the rationing system to pressure and intimidate citizens; and exaggerates infant and maternal mortality rates for propaganda purposes. Iraq also manipulates the delivery of UN-approved items into Iraq, a process over which it exercises full control. Iraq also has refused visas to UN experts to travel to Iraq to analyze the humanitarian situation. For more details about these issues, please see the enclosed material. With regards to contract holds, the Iraq Sanctions Committee, on average, approves 87 percent of contracts submitted under the OFF. The data on contract holds can be misleading. About 90 percent of U.S. holds are either for restricted dual-use goods, or is the result of suppliers' providing insufficient information about contracts. Some two-thirds of these holds are for items that cannot be exported to Iraq in the absence of UN weapons inspectors who could verify that they are being used solely for civilian purposes. In the absence of a UN weapons inspections regime in Iraq, it is critical to ensure no dual-use items are imported into Iraq. There is no limit on the amount of oil Iraq may export under the OFF program. This, coupled with the recent rise in global oil prices, has boosted the level of revenues available to purchase humanitarian goods. It also has drastically increased the number of contracts considered by the Sanctions Committee. Despite an increase in U.S. and other staff internationally to review such contracts, it is not a surprise that the number of and value of contracts on hold has increased. As of mid-October, there are 1,216 contracts on hold with a total value of $2.2 billion. We have taken new steps this year, like instituting two-day contract reviews and pre-approved lists, to help ensure a reduction in the number of contract holds that do not contain dual-use items. We have also worked hard to urge prospective suppliers to provide full and detailed contracts and to remove dual-use items from contracts submitted to the UN, in an effort to improve the contract approval process. Between March 1 and October 15, the United States removed holds on 903 contracts with a total value of $1.6 billion. The OFF is a valuable program, which has contributed significantly to the lives of the people of Iraq. Like any human undertaking, the program can be improved. We are continually working with the UN and Security Council to improve it. It is important to note a central point: under OFF, the UN ensures that billions of dollars worth of humanitarian supplies flow to the Iraqi people. In the absence of the OFF and sanctions, those same revenues would be put into the hands of Saddam Hussein. We hope you find this information useful. Do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of further assistance in this or any other matter. Sincerely, Barbara Larkin Assistant Secretary Legislative Affairs Supplementary Materials: We would now like to address some of the other specific items in your letter. Cash Component The United States supported creating a cash component of the Oil-for-Food program under UN Security Council Resolution 1284, which allows for local cash purchases of humanitarian goods. Iraq, however, has refused visas to UN experts seeking to develop arrangements for such a program. Water and Sanitation In order to speed the processing of certain contracts, including water and sanitation items, the UN's Iraq Sanctions Committee, with U.S. support, has developed a list of pre-approved items covering water, sanitation, agriculture and other sectors. Individual contracts for these items are not examined by the Sanctions Committee like other contracts. Rather, the United Nations Office examines them for the Iraq Program. This process was specifically instituted to help expedite the approval process of non-dual use, pre-approved items to improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq. Line-Item Veto in Contract Review The U.S. government experts who review the contracts submitted to the Security Council under OFF periodically request removal from contracts of individual items that raise dual-use concerns. Such line-item veto power helps improve the contract approval process. We are not planning to implement a line-item veto for contracts, as such, but will continue to review contracts with the idea of removing only items that are specifically prohibited by UN resolutions or have potential dual-use concerns. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk