Sevan: UN should rethink oil-for-food scheme

A top United Nations official today urged the organization's Security Council to rethink the current economic sanctions against Iraq in order to streamline the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Middle Eastern country. Benon Sevan, the UN's executive director of the office of the Iraq program said the oil-for-food scheme put in place at the end of the Gulf War had become 'much more complex' since its introduction.


A top United Nations official today urged the organization's Security Council to rethink the current economic sanctions against Iraq in order to streamline the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Middle East country, according to a report from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' news agency, OPECNA.

Benon Sevan, the UN's executive director of the office of the Iraq program, speaking after a closed-door meeting of the council in New York, said the oil-for-food scheme put in place at the end of the Gulf War had become "much more complex" since its introduction.

"We cannot go on applying similar procedures which were valid at the time when it was only food and medicine," he said, noting that amongst the changes to the UN relations with Iraq was its involvement in the rehabilitation of country's infrastructure.

Sevan said the committee, set up by the council to monitor the sanctions against Iraq, should "review its procedures and make the necessary adjustments to assure that applications are approved more expeditiously, so that supplies can arrive in Iraq on a timely basis."

He also appealed to council members to refrain from politicizing the human aid relief effort in Iraq, saying this only works against Iraq's ability to "maintain its distinct humanitarian identity."

The present phase of the UN's oil-for-food initiative expired last night at midnight New York time.

According to OPECNA, Sevan confirmed oil production from Iraq had been suspended last Friday, but that discussions were "ongoing" to resolve the issue through a "flexible, step-by-step" approach.

Meanwhile in Vienna, departing OPEC Sec. Gen. Rilwanu Lukman tried to defuse growing concern over Iraq's longer term production plans, saying he had had assurances from Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rasheed that his country had "no intention" of halting its crude oil export.

Lukman explained last Friday's suspension of oil from Iraq as the result of delays in the UN's approval of the country's new pricing formula for the next tranche of oil exports. Without an approved pricing formula�and, therefore, without ratified crude prices�Lukman said Iraq had been left without the "necessary letters of credit" to continue exporting oil.

The OPEC secretary-general said Rasheed had confirmed that Iraq was engaged in "urgent" negotiations with the UN and hopes to resolve the issue within the "next day or two."

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