Iraq

Security Council experts to begin talks on adjustments to UN Oil-for-Food programme

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A group of experts will begin discussing plans tomorrow for adjustments to the United Nations humanitarian Oil-for-Food programme based on suggestions submitted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the President of the Security Council said today.
Council members "welcomed the Secretary-General's proposal for a plan to provide humanitarian emergency relief in Iraq and they decided it would serve as a good working basis," Ambassador Mamady Traoré of Guinea said in a press statement. They also "agreed on the need there is to rapidly take appropriate measures to contend with the humanitarian emergency prevailing in Iraq."

Ambassador Traoré's statement came after Council members met in closed consultations to discuss a letter from Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggesting possible adjustments to the Oil-for-Food Programme - which permits Baghdad to use a portion of revenues generated by petroleum exports to purchase food and other relief supplies - aimed at enabling the United Nations to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq.

Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette, as well as Benon Sevan, Executive Director of the Office of the Iraq Programme, UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima were present to answer any questions.

The operation had been suspended on Monday after Mr. Annan ordered the withdrawal of all UN personnel from Iraq, leaving it with no inspectors to monitor the selling of oil and the distribution of food required by the programme.

Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, which chairs the Council committee overseeing the UN programme, also stressed the Council's agreement on the need for the "necessary adjustments and arrangements that are supposed to be made in order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq."

He told reporters that during its informal discussions today, the Council "was agreed that the available supplies, especially from the Oil-For-Food programme, should be used to alleviate the plight of the Iraqi people [and] also agreed that the natural resources of Iraq belong to the Iraqi people and should be made available to them."