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brief comments on Hain's article

Dear Friends,

In his article in yesterday's Guardian (6th January) Peter Hain wrote that
"Iraq has ordered no medicine under the UN oil-for-food programme for the
last six months." Logging onto the oil-for-food web-site
( one discovers that Iraq has entered into contracts
(for the last sic-month phase : Phase VIII) for 'medicine' from Jordan,
Egypt, Syria, Ireland, Finland, Saudi Arabia, India and the UAE.

Hain also wrote that "to export ... medicine to Iraq you need simply notify
the UN." Returning to the  UN web-site we find that the contract for
'medicine' from France was actually 'on hold' in the Sanctions Committee !

In these two assertions Hain is apparently playing on the following two
facts (I haven't been able to track down the source for his claim about the
medicines) :

A.  That there have been substantial delays in the submission of
applications through the programme. In a statement to the Security Council
on the 4th December the programme's Executive Director, Benon Sevan,
explained that "with only five days left before the end of the current
phase, we had received only 865 applications, valued at $2.926 billion and
comprising only 39.7 per cent of the phase VIII distribution plan budget."

He went on to state that :

"Anyone with experience in negotiating contracts knows well, however, how
time consuming such negotiation is, particularly when the number of
contracts is so high - many highly complex and of very high value - as is
the case for contracts funded under the oil-for-food programme. We need to
bear this in mind. However, I say this not as an excuse for some of the
inordinate delays experienced in the submission of applications."

B. That there are now Green Lists of items in various sectors which do not
require the approval of the Sanctions Committee and merely have to be
notified. Whilst it's true that a large number of contracts have been
fast-tracked in this manner :

(a) these provsision apparently only apply to goods purchased through
oil-for-food programme


(b) only items on the lists (which are highly specific) are exempt from the
requirement for Sanctions Committee approval.

Having said this, I'm not aware of any solid evidence that such holds as do
exist in the food and medical sector constitute a major problem at present.
For the other sectors things are very different (see voices 'Strangle Hold'
briefing for some documentation and background.)

Most of the rest of Hain's piece consists of the usual melange of lies and

The FCO's current figure for monies "available for the purchase of
humanitarian goods" through oil-for-food "this year" seems to be $17 bn.
I've no idea how they arrive at this figure. The current oil price for Iraqi
crude is around $18 / barrel. If we bound Iraq's current oil exports at 3
million barrels a day (an overestimate) we arrive at a yearly gross figure
of $19.71 bn. Subtracting the 28% deductions leaves $14.2 bn for
"humanitarian goods" north, south and center.

Similarly I've no idea where they get the $1.1 bn figure for "goods" that
"Iraq had ... placed on hold at the end of October." Clearly Iraq doesn't
put *any* goods 'on hold', though there have been a substantial volume of
contracts "incomplete or non-compliant with either the approved distribution
plans or the procedures of the Committee ... awaiting processing by the
Secretariat, pending submission of the required information, corrections or
amendments, mainly by the suppliers and, frequently, by the Government of
Iraq." (UN Secretary-General report, 29 November 2000).

Hope some of this info. is useful ...

Best wishes,

voices in the wilderness uk

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