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Tun Myat - 'Oil-for-food no substitute for sanctions end'

Attached is a Reuters interview with Tun Myat, the UN Humanitarian
Coordinator for Iraq.  He directly addresses reports of Iraq's recent slow
pace in ordering OFF supplies ("nothing sinister").  And while he notes his
job is vastly different than his predecessors (Denis Halliday and Hans Von
Sponeck) due to current revenue levels, he says: ''I hope it's possible for
a resolution to be arrived at sooner rather than later...this whole thing
has gone on for far too long.'' 

Incumbents into crusaders ...


Iraqi oil-for-food no substitute for sanctions end  
BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 - The United Nations humanitarian aid programme for Iraq is
no  alternative to lifting U.N. sanctions but the scheme is meeting some
success in  improving life for ordinary Iraqis, a senior U.N. official said
on Tuesday.  
        ''The oil-for-food programme is not without its shortcomings and it
is  never going to be a substitute for normal economic life,'' Tun Myat,
U.N.  Coordinator in Iraq, told Reuters in an interview. 
       ''But when you take a long hard look at things, it's the only game in
town,'' said Myat, nine months to the day in his post. 
       ''What else have the Iraqi people got at this point in time?'' 
       The U.N. official was optimistic that once sanctions, now a decade
old,  were lifted, Iraq would get back on its feet with relative ease --
thanks to its  enormous oil resources. 
       ''They are probably better off than most developing countries will
ever  be,'' Myat said. ''They've got this huge collateral under the ground
that could  be used for investment that they would require.'' 
       While noting the inroads the U.N. aid scheme has made in the food and
medicine sectors, the U.N. official lamented the programme's shortcomings. 
       ''Obviously there has been progress made in food and medicine as a
result  of four years of oil-for-food,'' Myat said. 
       ''But the impact still has to be felt in the critical areas of water,
sanitation, electricity, telecommunications, transport infrastructure,
housing  and education.'' 

       Those sectors should soon get a boost from the huge influx of revenue
generated by sky-high world oil prices, he said. 
       ''Because of the very large sums of money that have become available
particularly during 2000...the impact is beginning to happen and it will
continue to improve soon,'' he said. 
       Over the past few days Myat got to the bottom of Iraq's recent slow
pace  in ordering supplies for health, education, water, sanitation and oil
       ''The real reason is nothing sinister,'' he said. It all boils down
to a  new Iraqi law from last October which eliminates the role of middlemen
in  supplying contracts to those sectors. 
       ''Many ministries here took time to readjust their purchasing
procedures,  sources of supplies and identification of suppliers,'' Myat
said. ''And this is  probably the main reason why some of the ministries
have fallen very badly  behind.'' 
       The progress Iraq has made under sanctions owes much to the
wherewithal  of its people, Myat, a native of Myanmar, said. 
       ''There are few good things coming out of sanctions, but becoming
more  self-reliant is certainly one of them,'' he said. The oil and
agricultural  sectors stand out as prime examples. 
       Oil-for-food's extra revenue has meanwhile allowed Myat to escape the
frustrations which forced his two predecessors to resign over the impact of
       ''I did not have to oversee a programme that was hopelessly poor and
inadequate to meet the needs of the Iraqi population because of the
remarkable  amounts (of revenue) available now.'' 

       The U.N. official was hopeful there might be some renewed momentum
towards lifting sanctions under the new U.S. administration -- despite the
hard  line taken by Washington. 
       ''I believe that a strong conservative administration is usually
better  at negotiating and arriving at hard decisions and solutions,'' Myat
       ''I hope it's possible for a resolution to be arrived at sooner
rather  than later...this whole thing has gone on for far too long.'' 
       And he was optimistic that progress might be made at talks next month
between Iraqi and U.N. officials in New York. 
       Admired for his administrative skills while at the World Food
Programme,  Myat wants to improve the efficiency of the oil-for-food
       ''The system was devised for food and medicine and it's now being
applied  to a programme far bigger than anything that was ever envisaged at
its  inception,'' he said. 
       But he says his sensitive job has been made easier by the Iraqi
       ''After 10 and a half years of sanctions...I would not have been
surprised if I found the average Iraqi to be hostile and xenophobic,'' Myat
said. ''But I have found them to be friendly, helpful and generous towards
       ''This is absolutely a remarkable trait.''  
 Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.  
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