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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN May Reconsider Goods Iraq Can Buy

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States forced the UN Security Council on Monday to extend the UN humanitarian program for Iraq for nine days rather than the usual six months, insisting on expanding a list of goods Baghdad must get UN approval to import.

Council members agreed to renew the oil-for-food program, which expired at midnight, until Dec. 4 so negotiations between Washington and the other 14 nations could continue.

The program covers food, medicine and a host of civilian supplies to ease the impact of UN sanctions imposed after President Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It allows Iraq to sell unlimited quantities of oil, with revenues going into a UN account that pays vendors for goods Iraq orders.

Preparing for possible war, the United States, in particular the Pentagon, has linked extension of the plan to scrutiny of a "goods review list" of civilian supplies going to Baghdad that could have military uses.

These have to be reviewed separately by Security Council members and Washington wants it done within three months.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told reporters he wanted to put on the list certain global positioning system jammers, radio intercept and direction systems as well as antropine injectors and the drug atropine, which can be used to combat nerve gases.

Iraq recently ordered atropine from suppliers in Turkey, raising fears Baghdad might intend to use nerve gas against any invading force.

"We think that even though the goods review list is long and detailed, there are areas where it can, and must be strengthened," Negroponte said.

But Iraq's ambassador, Mohamed Aldouri, said: "It is not necessary to have any short-term rollover to keep oil going and the humanitarian help for our people. This goes along with their war project. Otherwise, there is no reason."

Negroponte did not mention the drug Cipro, an antibiotic used after exposure to anthrax, which diplomats said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also wanted on the list.

But council diplomats said reopening the list to put in additions the United States wants was not easy, as other nations would propose taking some items off the list, negotiated in detail last May. "It's a Pandora's box," one envoy said.

Since the program began in December 1996, Iraq has imported $25 billion in civilian supplies and oil industry equipment, with an additional $10 billion in the pipeline, the United Nations said in a recent report.

Iraq this year has averaged oil exports of about 1.2 million barrels per day, down from the 2.15 million barrels daily it usually exports and from about 3 million barrels daily it was exporting before the August 1990 sanctions.

Benon Sevan, the UN undersecretary-general who heads the oil-for-food program, warned last week that a sharp drop in Iraqi oil revenues was undermining the program. He urged council members and Iraq to resolve a dispute over pricing Iraqi oil, a key reason for the decline in exports. Iraq had budgeted over $5 billion for the program during the last six months but only $3.5 billion in oil revenues were available, creating a $1.5 billion shortfall, he said.