Oil Sales Agreement Sent to Iraq

UNITED NATIONS -- Iraqi and UN negotiators sent President Saddam Hussein a draft accord that would allow Iraq to sell oil again in order to buy food and medicine for its people.

Western diplomats insisted Wednesday that the negotiators had reached a tentative agreement and were waiting for Baghdad to review the draft. But Iraq's delegation leader, Abdul Amir al-Anbari, said not all provisions in the text had been settled at the New York talks that began in February.

The talks adjourned Wednesday and will not resume until Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali returns from Moscow to review the text. He is due back Saturday but no date has been set for another session of the negotiations with Anbari and his UN counterpart, legal counsel Hans Corell.

"The two delegations have agreed that they have reached a stage where they had done all they can do and they would now have to refer to the secretary general," said UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi in announcing the recess.

After six years of sweeping trade sanctions, Iraq is suffering severe shortages of food and medicine.

To ease the impact of the embargoes, the UN Security Council offered to let Baghdad sell $2 billion worth of oil over six months, with revenues closely monitored by the United Nations and used solely for humanitarian supplies.

The plan, which could be renewed, is exempt from the sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

Said British Ambassador Sir John Weston: "It is my impression these talks have reached a satisfactory outcome and we are waiting a response from Baghdad."

While diplomats said Iraqi government officials strongly favored a deal, they were cautious in trying to predict any actions by the secretive Iraqi president.