BY FRED ECKHARD
SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has written to the President of the Security Council conveying his approval of the distribution plan for Phase VII of the "oil-for-food" programme.
The Secretary-General's letter, along with the letter of the Executive Director of the Iraq Programme, Benon Sevan, to the Permanent Representative of Iraq setting out the understandings of the approval, was made available today.
The United Nations is also sending a group of oil experts to Iraq. The Secretary-General established such a group to report on alternatives for increasing Iraq's petroleum production and export capacity, and on the options for involving foreign oil companies in Iraq's oil sector.
The experts will also assess the impact of holds placed by the Sanctions Committee on Iraq, on contracts for spare parts and equipment for the oil industry.
To date, the Committee has approved contracts
worth $581 million but has put on hold contracts worth $207 million.
The group comprises six experts: two from the United Kingdom and one each from Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway and the Russian Federation. They will arrive in Iraq on January 16 and remain for at least two weeks.
The Secretary-General's report is due on March 26.