Security Council meets to consider humanitarian situation in Iraq

Press Release SC/6833 - 20000324
Secretary-General describes "moral dilemma" for United Nations

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council today that the humanitarian situation in Iraq posed a serious moral dilemma for the United Nations, which was in danger of losing the argument, or the propaganda war - if it had not already lost it - about who was responsible for the situation: President Saddam Hussein or the United Nations.

Addressing the Council as it met to consider the humanitarian situation, and as it had before it his most recent report on meeting those humanitarian needs, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations had always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and had always sought to relieve suffering, yet in the case of Iraq, it was accused of causing suffering to an entire population. He had repeatedly recommended a significant increase in the allocation of resources under the "oil-for-food" programme for the purchase of spare parts for the oil industry. Fortunately, the Council now appeared ready to consider those recommendations favourably. Even if the programme was implemented "perfectly", however, those efforts might still prove insufficient to satisfy the population's needs.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the total impoverishment of the Iraqi population had produced an entire generation of Iraqis to be maimed physically and morally and to become outcasts of the world community. The steps being taken by the United Nations humanitarian programmes had "hardly ensured the physical survival of the people", yet those had been their only lifeline to the outside world. The Council was finally prepared to respond to the Secretary-General's recommendations and double the resources for oil spare parts and equipment, yet a serious improvement in the humanitarian and socio-economic situation was impossible under the sanctions regime. The solution was to suspend the sanctions in conjunction with a resumption of disarmament monitoring.

The United States representative insisted that sanctions were essential as long as Iraq was not meeting its obligations under Security Council resolutions. Iraq remained a threat. Unanswered questions persisted in the areas of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Given the long pattern of unacceptable behaviour, Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction capability would have to be monitored for some time to come. The oil-for-food programme would never supplant the responsibilities of the Government of Iraq to provide for the needs of its people.

Sanctions would not help solve the Iraq problem, nor were they serving the Council's intention in establishing them, the representative of China asserted. At the same time, the oil-for-food programme would never successfully address the humanitarian crisis in that country. The solution lay in the timely removal of the sanctions. Political difference among Council members should never make victims of innocent civilians. Ten years after the imposition of sanctions, their humanitarian consequences had been broad and profound. He urged a thorough review of the situation that focused on the impact of sanctions.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the faster the implementation of Security Council resolution 1284 (1999) -- by which the Council would suspend and lift the sanctions against Iraq as soon as certain conditions were met -- the sooner that objective could be reached. If the Iraqi Government let the United Nations finish the job of disarming the country of its weapons of mass destruction and put in place effective monitoring, his own Government was ready to suspend, and eventually lift, the sanctions. If Iraq refused that opportunity, the Council should make the most of resolution 1284.

The defenders of those relentless sanctions had argued that such measures had prevented Iraq from threatening its neighbours and rebuilding its arsenal, the Malaysian representative said. The policy of retaining the sanctions until certain political objectives were achieved had made Iraqi children and families hostage to the political deadlock between governments. For nearly a decade, the most comprehensive and punitive sanctions ever imposed on a people had destroyed a modern State. The use of sanctions as a policy tool that violated basic rights and evolved a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions must stop.

At the end of the meeting, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, was invited to respond to issues raised during the meeting. She said that sanctions were recognized as an instrument of the international community, but in the interests of children, they should not be imposed without obligatory, immediate and enforceable exemptions and monitoring mechanisms. Sanctions were not the only factor for the humanitarian crisis in Iraq: the country had suffered the effects of two wars, and the failure of the Iraqi Government to invest in social services had also contributed to the rise in child mortality.

The representatives of the Netherlands, France, Canada, Tunisia, Mali, Ukraine, Jamaica, Namibia, Argentina and Bangladesh also made statements.

The meeting, which was convened at 10:47 a.m., was suspended at 1:16 p.m. It resumed at 3:16 p.m. and was adjourned at 4:32 p.m.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to discuss the programme of humanitarian assistance for Iraq, also known as the "Oil-for-food" programme, as it allows the Government of Iraq to sell a certain quantity of oil and use the proceeds for humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people. The programme was established by the Council in 1995 as a temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, in the context of the sanctions regime applied to Iraq in 1990 and in force until it complies with resolution 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991. That resolution, among other things, set the terms for the ceasefire between Iraq and Kuwait and decided that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction should be destroyed.

It had before it a report of the Secretary-General (document S/2000/208), submitted pursuant to Council requests in resolutions 1284 (1999) and 1281 (1999) to report on: progress made in meeting the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and on the revenues necessary to meet those needs; Iraq's existing petroleum production and export capacity, as well as recommendations for increasing that capacity; and whether Iraq has ensured the equitable distribution of medicine, health supplies, foodstuffs, and materials and supplies for essential civilian needs.

For the preparation of the report, the Office of the Iraq Programme undertook an inter-agency review of the humanitarian programme, which was established by resolution 986 of 14 April 1995 and is currently in its seventh phase, effective 11 December 1999. It also undertook a review of the whole process of contracting, application processing, obtaining approval by the Security Council Committee established by resolution 661 (1990) concerning sanctions, procurement and shipment, as well as the timely distribution of humanitarian supplies within Iraq.

The report also examines the extent to which the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General's supplementary report dated 1 February 1998 (document S/1998/90), as endorsed by the Council, have been implemented and identifies additional measures aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the programme, with a view to achieving substantial improvement in both the health and nutritional status of the population and also to address the deterioration of social services infrastructure.

In his introduction, the Secretary-General states that, in any assessment of the programme and its implementation, it is essential to bear in mind the exceptional and unprecedented complexity of the programme and that it should not, therefore, be confused with a development programme and the requirements of such a programme. Further, he states, despite the great increase in the range of resource available to meet humanitarian needs throughout Iraq, the programme was never intended to meet all humanitarian needs and must be assessed in that context.

Section II, on revenue generation and status of the oil industry, contains sections on oil production and sale of petroleum and petroleum products, status of the oil industry, and United Nations accounts pertaining to the oil industry. It states that, for phases I to VI, total crude oil export from Iraq under the programme amounted to 1.5 billion barrels, with a value of $20.7 billion. Concerning the status of the oil industry, the report summarizes a more detailed report of the group of experts established by the Secretary-General to report on Iraq's existing petroleum production and export capacity, as well as to make recommendations for increasing that capacity. The full report is being supplied to the Council. The experts, who visited Iraq from 16 to 31 January 2000, analyse production, investment levels, refining, transportation and storage, spare parts and equipment.

The report states that since sanctions were imposed in 1990, the oil industry of Iraq has suffered seriously as a result of the absence of the required spare parts and equipment. There has been a massive decline in the condition, effectiveness and efficiency of the oil infrastructure. In general, the group of experts reports that the "previously noted generally lamentable state" of the Iraqi oil industry had not improved. The decline in the condition of all sectors of the industry continued and was accelerating. "Without prompt action", it states, "a continued decline in production is strongly indicated."

Section III of the Secretary-General's report, Observation and Monitoring Activities, describes the inspection and authentication of humanitarian supplies, the monitoring of oil spare parts and equipment, and the United Nations observation mechanism. Section IV covers the processing and approval of applications, while Section V describes the effectiveness, equitability and adequacy of the programme implementation. There are two annexes, one on the status of the United Nations accounts pertaining to the Iraq programme and a second on the number and value of letters of credit pertaining to oil proceeds and humanitarian supplies.

In the report's conclusions, the Secretary-General states that the adequacy of the programme to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population had been a continuing concern throughout the period of implementation of Council resolution 986 (1995). Despite the difficulties and shortcomings identified in his report, the programme has provided substantial assistance in all sectors to address pressing humanitarian needs affecting the lives of the Iraqi people. The total amount of funds made available for the implementation of the programme from December 1996 to 31 January 2000 was $13.2 billion. As at 31 January, the total value of the supplies delivered to Iraq was $6.7 billion -- including over 13 million tons of food basket items valued at $4.4 billion and health supplies worth just under $840 million. Additional approved supplies with a total value of $2.7 billion were awaiting delivery, and additional supplies were being contracted during phase VII.

The Secretary-General states that, by adopting resolution 1284 on 17 December 1999, the Security Council responded to concerns that the underlying weaknesses in the implementation of resolutions 986 (1995) and 1153 (1998) had not been adequately addressed and that, consequently, improvements in the humanitarian situation have been below expectations. The Secretary-General is hopeful that effective implementation of the provisions of section C of resolution 1284, which addresses those weaknesses, will enhance the impact of the programme.

By the same resolution, the Council lifted the ceiling on revenues earned by oil exports which, coupled with the present increase in the price of oil, will make more funds available for the implementation of the programme, he continues. However, lifting the ceiling and authorizing improvements in programme implementation alone will not suffice. The effectiveness of the programme has suffered considerably, not only because of shortfalls in the funding level, but also because of the very large number of applications placed on hold (at 31 January, the total value of those applications was over $1.5 billion). In that regard, the Secretary-General reiterates his appeal for a further review and reconsideration of positions taken with regard to applications placed on hold.

The Secretary-General states that he has directed the Office of the Iraq Programme to review further the information requirements of the Security Council Sanctions Committee in respect of applications placed on hold. Further, he has directed the Office to identify ways in which the observation mechanism can more effectively track and report on a programme that is rapidly increasing in size and complexity and to enhance observation procedures for items of special interest to the Committee.

The Secretary-General also calls upon the Government of Iraq:

-- To move away from an inventory-based approach to the distribution plan in favour of a project-oriented one;

-- To share with the programme all existing baseline data relevant to the programme and, where such data do not exist, to collaborate with the programme in collecting such data through joint surveys and reviews;

-- To share all technical data related to the electricity grid in the three northern governorates so that the rehabilitation there is compatible with established Iraqi engineering standards and specifications;

-- To consider employing internationally recognized pre-shipment inspection agents at the port of shipment using funds in the United Nations Iraq account to improve food quality control;

-- To strengthen cooperation with United Nations observers to ensure unhindered and timely access to all facilities and end-users, notably in the health and education sectors;

-- To ensure that the food basket is distributed regularly and in full each month in order to meet the current nutritional target of 2,300 kilocalories and 54.2 grams of protein per person per day. However, until his recommendations on supplementary feeding programmes are fully implemented, the Government's distribution plan should retain the target provision for the food basket of 2,463 kilocalories and 63.6 grams of protein per person per day to meet the immediate nutritional needs of the Iraqi population;

-- To establish efficient distribution networks for targeted nutrition and supplementary feeding programmes;

-- To ensure adequate funding in the health sector for phases IV to VI to cover recurrent costs and to provide the framework for the restoration of the basic public health care system; and

-- To improve the delivery and administration of drugs for chronic illnesses and ensure that sufficient quantities of anti-infectious and anti- tuberculosis drugs are ordered and distributed.

The Secretary-General also recommends that the Security Council Committee:

-- Improve further its working procedures and understandings with a view to expediting the approval of applications;

-- Identify with greater clarity the reasons for which applications have been placed on hold so that the Office of the Iraq Programme, in consultation with all concerned, may provide all available information to facilitate the lifting of such holds;

-- Streamline the processes by which such holds can be lifted;

-- Renew its efforts to reach consensus on the proposal submitted by the Office of the Iraq Programme on 11 February 1999 for a new system to expedite the rate at which funds are reimbursed from the ESC (13 per cent) to the ESB (53 per cent) accounts;

-- Review further the options contained in the paper submitted on 7 July 1999 by the Office of the Iraq Programme concerning payment clauses for the ESB (53 per cent) account in order to meet the legitimate need to provide commercial protection for purchases made by the Government of Iraq within the provisions of the rules and regulations governing the implementation of the programme; and

-- Address the difficulties encountered in the appointment of additional oil overseers in order to correct the present untenable situation.

Concerned with the deteriorating condition of the oil industry of Iraq, the Secretary-General reiterates his earlier recommendation that the Council approve the request to increase by $300 million the allocation for oil spare parts and equipment for phase VI. He also recommends that the Council approve the allocation of an additional $300 million for spare parts and equipment for phase VII in order to offset permanent damage to oil-bearing structures in Iraq.

Raising the level of allocations alone is not sufficient, the report continues. A special effort must be made to approve most expeditiously the applications for oil spare parts and equipment. The total value of applications placed on hold as at 31 January was $291 million, more than half of the total of $506 million approved.

The Secretary-General states that, despite the measures adopted to improve the funding level and widen the scope of the programme, its full potential has not been attained because of the numerous difficulties described in the report. Accordingly, he appeals once more to all concerned "to intensify their efforts in order to enable the programme to address more effectively the difficult conditions under which the Iraqi people continue to live".


Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that the oil-for-food programme, in existence for over three years, had, as its purpose, to alleviate the impact of sanctions on the Iraqi population, since they were not the targets. It had undoubtedly brought them some relief, but many of the essential needs of the population remained unsatisfied. In its original form, it had been subjected to very tight restrictions, both on the types of goods Iraq was allowed to import - which had been limited to food and medicine and other strictly humanitarian needs - and on the revenue it was allowed to generate by oil exports.

He said that, as a result of decisions made by the Council over the last three years, the list of item Iraq was allowed to import had been considerably expanded and liberalized. Now, under the terms of resolution 1284 (1999), the ceiling on oil imports had been completely eliminated. Also, the recent rise in the price of oil had greatly increased the value of exports, with the result that a much larger income was now available for the programme. Iraq's oil industry, however, was "seriously hampered" by a lack of parts and equipment, and that had threatened to undermine the programme's income in the longer term.

Thus, he said, he had repeatedly recommended a significant increase in the allocation of resources under the programme for the purchase of spare parts for the oil industry. The Council was now ready to consider those recommendations favourably, which he had welcomed. For one thing, a mechanism was needed to review the "holds" on contract applications, which had a direct negative impact on the humanitarian programme and on efforts to rehabilitate Iraq's infrastructure, most of which was in "appalling disrepair". The cooperation of the Iraqi Government was also required. In that regard, he urged them to take all necessary steps to ensure the effective and prompt distribution of the imported items.

As soon as the programme was amended by a fully implemented resolution 1284, there would soon be considerable improvement in the humanitarian situation, he went on. Even if it was implemented "perfectly", however, it was possible that the efforts would prove insufficient to satisfy the population's needs. The Council, therefore, should keep the effectiveness and impact of the programme constantly under review, and take further steps to improve it, should that prove necessary. The humanitarian situation in Iraq had posed a "serious moral dilemma" for the Organization. The United Nations had always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and had always sought to relieve suffering, yet here it was accused of "causing" suffering to an entire population.

He said the United Nations was in danger of losing the argument, or the propaganda war - if that had not already been lost - about who was responsible for the situation in Iraq: President Saddam Hussein or the United Nations. He was particularly concerned about the situation of Iraqi children whose suffering and, in all too many cases, untimely death, had been documented in the report prepared by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Iraqi Health Ministry last year. That report had shown that, in the centre and south of the country, infant mortality and morbidity had increased dramatically and reached unacceptable levels.

"We cannot in all conscience ignore such reports, or assume that they are wrong", he said. It was imperative that everyone - the Secretariat, the Council and the Sanctions Committee - implement fully and expeditiously what the Council's resolutions had demanded. He was pleased to hear that the Committee was now ready to provide the list of drugs and other medical supplies, which, under resolution 1284, the Secretariat would, henceforth, be able to approve on its own authority. Indeed, the Council should seek every opportunity to alleviate the suffering of the population.

He said that the people of a State that was the object of sanctions must always, to some degree, be victims, often of their own government and of the measures taken against it. The only satisfactory outcome of any such situation was for the State in question to return to full compliance with the Council's decisions, so that sanctions could be ended as quickly as possible. Undoubtedly, everyone looked forward, with impatience, to the day when that would happen in Iraq.

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that he did not speak as Chairman of the Sanctions Committee, except for one statement: He was still waiting for the green light from Iraq for a visit. He expressed appreciation, not only for the Secretary-General's report, but also for the Secretariat for all the often- thankless tasks accomplished by the collaborators of the Office of the Iraq Programme.

There was a striking contrast between the report and the alarming messages from various quarters calling for swift and decisive action to halt and reverse the humanitarian emergency in Iraq, he continued. The two observations were, however, not incompatible. The sanctions regime would come to an end as soon as the Government of Iraq met its obligations under the Security Council resolutions. That would halt and reverse the humanitarian emergency in Iraq.

It was clear that some delegations had an interest in playing down Iraq's appetite for prohibited weaponry, whereas others might feel a need not to be seen to be soft on Iraq at the current time. Below the checkered surface was a remarkable degree of consensus. Iraq must yet convince the international community that it had abandoned its hope for building instruments of mass destruction, he said.

Another point of consensus was that, given the absence of a democratic government, the people should not be punished for its policies. Provisions in part C of resolution 1284 (1999) had lifted the oil ceiling. His Government supported the Secretary-General's recommendation to increase the allocation for oil spare parts and equipment from $300 to $600 million. Together with other measures mentioned in resolution 1284, such as the implementation of the provisions regarding the establishment of a cash component, those measures might be expected to help alleviate the humanitarian situation in Iraq before long.

Those improvements would result in a strongly increased focus on the problem of holds, he said. The current amount of applications placed on hold was intolerably high. A more sustained effort to reduce that amount was urgently required. He did not expect the delegations concerned to diminish their dual-use alertness, but they should be equally aware of the humanitarian impact, he said. There was a recurring theme that had plagued the humanitarian programme, namely, Iraq's determination to prove to the world that the only way to improve the humanitarian situation was to lift the sanctions altogether. That phenomenon ran like a thread through the history of the sanctions regime, from Iraq's refusal for almost two years to accept the oil-for-food programme to its recent rejection of an arrangement for the Hajj that was supported by all 15 members of the Council.

The Security Council meant business, he said. The appointment of Mr. Blix as Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) was approved unanimously. If Iraq continued to insist that the humanitarian situation could not be improved as long as the sanctions were in place, it only needed to accept resolution 1284, and invite UNMOVIC to start its work in Iraq. He urged the Government of Iraq to opt for that course of action.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said the Secretary-General's report had shown that the deteriorating humanitarian situation was leading to the desecration of the fabric of civil society. The population was totally impoverished, with conditions far short of generally recognized standards of health. The population was also suffering from problems related to employment and education. An entire generation of Iraqis had been maimed physically and morally and become outcasts from the world community. The industrial infrastructure had been damaged, as well as the water supply, the provision of energy, communications, and transportation. There had been no sustainable distribution of food and medicines, and mortality rates had reached threatening proportions.

He said he had received a letter from Denis Halliday, the former coordinator of the humanitarian programme in Iraq. Although he had resigned, he was continuing to draw attention to the tragic situation of that country. The steps being taken by the United Nations humanitarian programmes had "hardly ensured the physical survival of the people", yet, those had been their only lifeline to the outside world. The main pillar had been the extraction and export of oil. Any reduction could lead to more dire consequences. He agreed with the Secretary-General's points concerning the catastrophic state of the oil industry in Iraq, owing to the lack of spare parts. The Council was finally prepared to respond to the Secretary-General's recommendations and double the resources for oil spare parts and equipment.

Hopefully, he said, appropriate decisions would be taken in the upcoming days, but it was important that the new sum of $600 million for each six months "really get to Iraq" and that contracts for spare parts and equipment were not blocked in the Sanctions Committee. Currently in that Committee, many contracts were on hold for spare parts under Phase IV, in particular, as well as under Phases V and VI. Apart from the fact that the Council was doubling the sum for spare parts and equipment, the problem of "holds" in the Sanctions Committee must be addressed.

Much remained to be done towards the practical implementation of the other measures envisaged under the humanitarian portion of resolution 1284, he continued. It had been nearly four months since its adoption, but implementation of those measures had been slow, "to put it mildly". It was necessary, as soon as possible, to complete agreements for the classification of medical goods. He called upon the Secretary-General and all international parties to devise practical measures for use in Iraq, such as direct cash components to buy goods and train local staff.

He agreed with the Secretary-General's repeated concern about the unresolved shift of unused resources. The Sanctions Committee should work more actively in order to reduce the time taken to implement all procedures regulating implementation of humanitarian operations. Some shortcomings had also existed in the work of the experts.

Also, according to data from the Secretariat, humanitarian contracts were being delayed under completely "trumped up", artificial pretexts, impeding the acutely needed equipment for power stations, medical equipment, and communications resources. Regarding those "artificial holds", contracts for similar goods from other countries were being implemented. The Sanctions Committee should review its approach fully and fully implement the deliveries contained in the Council's resolutions. Clearly, the socio-economic situation in Iraq was worsening. Since 1998, the United States and Great Britain had conducted some 20,000 aircraft strikes in the so-called no-fly zones -- established unilaterally and without any decision by United Nations, and which encompassed almost 65 per cent of Iraq's territory.

Continuing, he said he was particularly concerned about strikes against facilities and warehouses used to distribute food, and against the metering stations on the oil pipelines. Some 42 per cent of those air strikes had caused human casualties; 144 innocent civilians died, and 466 people had been wounded. Any explanations that those had not been directed against civilian targets "don't hold water". International experts had attested to the contrary. Facilities were being hit that had nothing to do with the anti-aircraft defence systems. The bombs had threatened United Nations personnel, which, in a number of cases, had to be evacuated.

He said that the air strikes and actions by the Council to subvert the Iraqi regime had created a very negative political backdrop against which to pursue cooperation between the United Nations and Baghdad, particularly in disarmament. It was not possible to ask them to cooperate and, at the same time, bomb their territory. He wondered how it would be possible to deploy a new monitoring system in Iraq, so necessary to discharging Security Council resolutions. The humanitarian programme could not radically change the situation. At best, it was limited. A serious improvement in the humanitarian and socio-economic situation was impossible under the sanctions regime.

The solution to the impasse, he said, should be through suspension of sanctions, in conjunction with a resumption of the disarmament monitoring. Implementation of resolution 1284 was ultimately the only way to prevent the disintegration of the civil society in Iraq.

JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that Iraq remained a threat. Unanswered questions remained in the areas of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Given the long pattern of unacceptable Iraqi behaviour, including public pronouncements rejecting resolution 1284, Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction capability would have to be monitored for some time to come. As long as Iraq was not meeting its obligations under Security Council resolutions, sanctions remained essential.

Oil for food would never supplant the responsibilities of the Government of Iraq to provide for the needs of its people, he continued. Despite record- setting revenues under the oil-for-food programme, Iraq consistently under- ordered food and had never met the minimum calorie and protein targets. Among the well documented abuses by the Iraqi regime were the warehousing of supplies, the under-ordering of medicines, and the "siphoning off" of goods to agents of the regime. In addition, humanitarian supplies had been illegally re-exported and front companies had been established to manipulate and gain from oil-for- food contracts.

Continuing, he said that the documented Iraqi governmental tactics that had a negative impact on the population included the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian settlements, arbitrary killings, arrests and detentions and forced displacement. The "no-fly zones" had been established to alleviate the most egregious examples of attacks on the vulnerable population groups in the North and the South. Paragraph 27 of resolution 1284 outlined specific tasks Iraq must perform to assuage the suffering of the Iraqi people. His Government, therefore, would like more information on what Iraq had or had not done in that regard. The sanctions had never targeted the Iraqi people or limited the import of food and medicine. The Iraqi regime was responsible for deprivation in the country, due to both its failure to meet its obligations under Security Council resolutions and its cynical manipulation of civilian suffering in an effort to obtain the lifting of sanctions without compliance.

The challenge now was to decide how to improve the humanitarian situation, despite Iraqi obstruction, he said. The oil for food was the largest humanitarian programme in United Nations history. However, although all of Iraq was under the same sanctions regime and used the same oil-for-food programme, the Secretary-General's report highlighted unfortunate differences in the humanitarian situation in the North and the rest of the country. Where Baghdad was in charge of distribution, the full benefits of the oil-for-food programme were not being achieved. Lessons should be learned from that situation. If the Government of Iraq was unable to manage oil for food to its maximum benefit, he believed that United Nations agencies active in the North should be empowered to conduct similar programmes in the South and centre of the country.

Turning to the assessment of the oil sector, he said that Iraqi oil exports were at about a pre-war level, which was a tremendous increase from less than a year ago. Unfortunately, the current report did not outline a comprehensive plan for the future in that regard. It recommended, however, an additional $300 million allocation for the oil sector for Phases VI and VII, and he was prepared to support that recommendation. In fact, today the United States had introduced a draft resolution that would do just that.

On the same subject, he added that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gasoline were being smuggled out of Iraq, with the proceeds going to the regime and its cronies. No one had seen evidence that any of that money had been spent for humanitarian relief. The Council should act to designate authorized routes for refined product. He proposed that export facilities Al Faw and Abu Flus be designated for United Nations-monitored export of refined product. It was time to bring all of Iraq's petroleum and petroleum products revenues under the oil-for-food programme, so that its potential could be realized.

Turning to the question of "United States holds", he said that his country reviewed oil-for-food contracts on the basis of two basic principles: preventing Iraq from acquiring the means to threaten regional stability, and improving the humanitarian situation. Maintaining a judicious balance between those two objectives was a serious responsibility from which the United States would not shrink. In fact, the great preponderance of all goods requested since the beginning of the oil-for-food programme had been approved.

Complaints about United States holds were focused on a small percentage of contracts presented to the Sanctions Committee, he said. Out of more than 10,000 contracts received by the Secretariat, his country had about 1,000 contracts on hold. In most cases, it was awaiting requested information from the supplier about either the goods or the end-use or end-user. Those were called "United States holds", but they were really holds caused by the failure to prepare an adequate submission. Among other reasons for putting contracts on hold were dual-use concerns.

The ball "was in the United States court" on 339 contracts, he continued, on which additional information had not been reviewed. It was inappropriate to keep contractors waiting for lengthy periods for responses to their additional information, and his country was tightening its procedures with the goal of a much-quicker response time. In most sectors, holds had caused relatively minor shortages. In reviewing oil-for-food contracts, the United States had acted, and would continue to act, strictly and objectively in accordance with the arms control policies defined by the Council. The holds were neither politically motivated nor driven by calculations of commercial gain. Not all critics of United States policy could say the same.

The best way to reduce the number of holds was to provide some sort of guarantee that contracted goods would go to approved purposes, he said. That could be achieved through better monitoring arrangements, building on arrangements already in place. Of course, the absence of UNMOVIC and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors significantly complicated the monitoring. If there were more monitors with stronger technical qualifications, reporting more frequently and in greater detail to the Committee on monitoring efforts, the United States would be placing fewer holds on items, because it would have greater assurance concerning the proper monitoring of oil-for-food inputs.

He said that what was ironic about today's discussion was that, while the Council and the Committee had worked to implement Council resolution 1284, the Government of Iraq had done nothing but speak of rejection and non-cooperation. The Council must remain united in its efforts to persuade Iraq to accept all aspects of 1284 immediately. He frankly must express his disappointment that the Secretary-General had not reported in detail on Iraqi progress in meeting its obligations under resolution 1284.

The soon-to-be-appointed head of United Nations programmes in Iraq should be much more vigorous in reminding the Government of Iraq of its obligations, he added. The new head of the United Nations programme in Iraq should also draw a plan for assisting vulnerable groups, particularly in the southern and central areas of the country, as well as a plan for eliminating backlogs in distribution across all sectors, just as his country was doing on holds.

In conclusion, he said that the Government of Iraq must immediately use a project-based approach to contracts; share baseline data or collaborate with the Office of the Iraq Programme to collect it; share information on the northern electrical grid; consider employing pre-shipment inspection agents and use better suppliers; strengthen cooperation with monitors; ensure regular distribution of a full food basket and implement a supplementary feeding programme; establish efficient distribution networks for feeding programmes; ensure funding for basic public health care; and improve delivery of drugs for chronic illnesses.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said that Iraq had experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty. According to UNICEF, the infant mortality rate was among the highest in the world. The situation was hardly better in the educational sector and had deteriorated in the area of social services. The almost daily bombardments had had negative humanitarian effects on the civilian population. "An entire society is living without structure and being destroyed", he said. The Iraqi Government bore a heavy share of the initial blame for that, but the Security Council must recognize its own liability in the matter, which was "indisputable and increasingly condemned by international public opinion".

Only the suspension of civilian sanctions, which could be envisioned in the context of implementing resolution 1284 (1999), then lifting them completely once the conditions had been fulfilled, would allow the country's economy to start growing again, he said. Meanwhile, the members of the Council had a responsibility to improve the Iraq programme. He hoped that the recommendations from the Secretary-General's report would all be applied resolutely and speedily.

Some recommendations addressed the issue of holds, which had had a very negative impact on implementing the humanitarian programme. The programme for the purchase of spare parts for the oil industry was also characterized by an excessively high rate of holds, he said, and he, therefore, supported the approval of an additional amount of $300 million for each of the final two phases. Unless more spare parts were sent to Iraq quickly, the oil industry's capacity to maintain the current level of production would be compromised. The matter of excessive holds had to stop. The implementation of resolution 1284 (1999), the drafting of which France had made considerable contributions to, had not lived up to expectations.

The "arrangements" requested from the Secretariat pursuant to paragraph 24 of the resolution, implementing a cash component, had still not been communicated to the Council. That measure could improve the programme, and he hoped that those arrangements were presented to the Council as quickly as possible. He asked that the Council be better informed of the situation on the ground, in particular, by hearing representatives of United Nations agencies and the humanitarian coordinator on a more regular basis. Had the Council been better informed, it would have wanted to correct the shortcomings in the current humanitarian programme. He said that that matter must be further examined.

He said that the Council should work in good faith for the implementation of the positive guidelines of resolution 1284 (1999) in order to encourage Iraq to cooperate, and permit the sanctions to be suspended and, afterwards, lifted. Beyond that, he said, the situation should lead the Council to question, in the future, the effectiveness and consequences of broad, indiscriminate sanctions that hurt civilian populations exclusively and whose human cost clearly exceeded the political benefits that the Council could expect.

WANG YINGFAN (China) said the Secretary-General's observation that the humanitarian situation in Iraq was below expectations, despite some oil-for-food programme achievements, was shared by most Member States. Arresting the deterioration was not as simple as allowing imports of food and medicines. Given that the reviews the Security Council had conducted, as well as the constructive proposals from members and the Secretariat, had not yielded results, one must ask what the real problem was.

One of the factors that has affected the sufferings in Iraq was Iraq's oil-exportation capability and holds of contracts, he said. Oil production and exportation was essential to the oil-for-food programme. Despite a Council resolution lifting the export ceiling, exports had decreased. The cause was obvious. As an expert group had previously informed the Council, the oil sector was 10 years out of date and more resources were needed to rehabilitate it. Funds earmarked for spare parts must be increased from $300 million to $600 million, to avoid disasters which would affect the entire Gulf region.

In addition to oil-for-food's underlying weakness, holds on contracts had exacerbated the miserable humanitarian situation in Iraq, he said, with 570 projects valued at $700 million on hold as of last October. The Office of the Iraq Programme reported that by 6 March the value of such contracts had risen to $1.7 billion - double the October value in less than six months. Those figures revealed a very serious - even alarming - problem to the Council. Yet, it remained unresolved for a crystal-clear reason.

One reason advanced for the problem was that contracts involved items that could have civil or military use (dual-use items), he said. However, the Secretary-General strictly examined all distribution plans to ensure this did not happen. There was also no evidence of any breaches of the embargo on the sale of military goods to Iraq. Bearing these facts in mind, all contracts scrutinized by the Office of the Iraq Programme and then submitted to the Council should conform with the Council's stipulations. Applicants hoping to export to Iraq, including China, provided information in response to bilateral requests from Council members, but efficiency by the holding members was poor.

In addition, related contracts were alternately approved and rejected, so that approval had been given to import-power generators, but not to the electricity cables they required, he said. The Secretariat and other agencies agreed that telecommunications in Iraq should be immediately improved, but almost all contracts for this type of equipment were on hold. Technical reasons given for the holds were far from convincing. Sanctions had lasted 10 years and their humanitarian consequences had been broad and profound, he said. Child mortality had doubled, maternal mortality had increased and unemployment was as high as 50 per cent. Up to now, the Council had not been able to launch a comprehensive review of the negative impacts on Iraq's economy, society, cultures, religions and human rights. China believed a review of the humanitarian issue should take place, especially focusing on the impacts of sanctions.

Thousands of checks and observations on goods exported to Iraq had been undertaken on the United Nations' behalf, and China would like to regularly hear the results of these, he said. In addition, enhanced monitoring and observation capabilities must reassure some Council members, and thereby assist in the release of contracts on hold. He looked forward to the Office of the Iraq Programme's concrete implementing plan for the latter.

The performance of the Sanctions Committee was less than satisfactory, and he called for expedition of its work and consideration of ways to improve its work methods. In addition, only minimal scarce oil-for-food revenues should be used to administer United Nations activities.

He said sanctions would not help solve the Iraq problem, but could only have tremendous humanitarian consequences. Thus, they were not serving the Council's intention in establishing them. The oil-for-food programme would never successfully address these humanitarian crises. The fundamental solution lay in the timely removal of the sanctions. Political differences between Council members should never make victims of innocent civilians. In addressing Iraq's humanitarian problems, the Council should employ the same standards it used in East Timor, Kosovo and Africa.

ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said the Council should do whatever it could to improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq within the provisions of its resolutions. The shared concern about smuggling begged the question as to whether the sanctions might be better targeted in order to be more humane. Iraq could have had the sanctions lifted by complying with the relevant resolutions. Resolution 1284 (1999) set a clear path towards the lifting of the sanctions, and it was in Iraq's interest to accept its terms. He called for implementation of the provisions of the resolution, fully in letter and in spirit, as soon as possible, so that the humanitarian programme could be enhanced.

Addressing the question of the need to generate increased revenue and the need to lift holds on contracts, he said that the ceiling on exports had been raised, but that achievement of the humanitarian aspects depended on whether sufficient revenues could be generated. Without oil spare parts, they could not. He, therefore, supported the increase to $600 million as recommended.

Increased revenue would be meaningless if supplies were not delivered, he said. Holds had seriously undermined the objectives of the humanitarian programme and were a key impediment to it. The streamlining of procedures at Headquarters and in Iraq should be achieved as recommended. There was, of course, concern about dual-use programmes, but all members should take a hard look at the number of holds put in place, and keep their concerns focused and realistic. Addressing Iraq's role in implementing the resolution, he said that its Government should not be let off the hook. Iraqi actions had blocked the delivery of much-needed supplies. Iraqi cooperation should improve and the Government should accept the recommendations of the report. Progress must also be made on the issue of prisoners of war. A new relationship between the Council and Iraq could be established, but Iraq must first demonstrate its commitment to the resolution.

SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said that three and one-half years had elapsed since the humanitarian programme had gotten under way. Now, consideration of the humanitarian situation required the Council's greater attention. General attention had focused on the worsening humanitarian situation and an overall drop in all of Iraq's socio-economic indicators. The rise in the mortality rate, particularly the infant mortality rate, had been unprecedented, and all strata of Iraqi society had suffered. The Secretary-General's report indicated that the oil-for-food programme had provided considerable assistance to all sectors, in order to meet the urgent needs of the Iraqi people. At the same time, the report acknowledged that, despite some improvements, the results of the programme had still fallen short of expectations.

He said the Secretary-General had detailed the obstacles to implementation of the oil-for-food programme and had provided a distressing assessment of the oil sector, which was crucial to Iraq's economy since it alone generated all of the income for importing necessary products. The oil sector was clearly suffering from a lack of urgent substantive investments, in order to attain product capacity, and thus comply with Security Council resolution 1284 (1999) lifting the ceiling on oil exports from Iraq. That resolution would not be fully effective unless the oil sector produced more and had the necessary spare parts and equipment to maintain and upgrade the sector. The Secretary-General had reiterated his previous recommendation to increase the envelope for the acquisition of spare parts to $600 million for Phases VI and VII, making clear that the funds were now available, owing to the increase in oil prices. Thus, the Council's agreement to adopt a resolution providing for that increase was welcome.

The question of financial resources was not the only difficulty, he said. Another major obstacle was the "holds" on export contracts for humanitarian goods, which, according to the Secretary-General, were now "unacceptably high". The oil sector had been the most affected by the holds. Furthermore, striking details had been provided about entire sectors, such as electricity, water, transportation, and so forth, which were key aspects of daily life. All had been impeded to varying degrees by a lack of parts, owing to the holds on contracts, sometimes for several months. Sufficient explanations for those holds had not been provided. After 10 years of sanctions and four years of a humanitarian programme, a thorough study of the situation in all of its aspects should be conducted -- from compliance with Security Council resolutions to their accumulated impact. A middle road needed to be found between the Council's goals and minimizing the collateral damage caused by the sanctions.

He said that the Council could adopt an objective approach to meet the Secretary-General's concerns. There could be regular assessments of the impact of sanctions, and implementation of the oil-for-food programme could be improved through the introduction of greater flexibility regarding the contracts. In addition, implementation of Council resolution 1284 (1999) could be accelerated. A gradual approach should be adopted, in order to strike a balance between implementation of the resolutions and the need to ensure that they did not cause collateral damage. Humanitarian relief was a unique global concept and a basis for peace and stability. That concept should not suffer from a selective approach; Iraq should be allowed to resume its rightful place in the global community.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said that the report underscored the progressive degradation of Iraq's infrastructure, which seriously affected its people. The report indicated that, although the Council had authorized augmenting the financing for the humanitarian programme from $1.3 billion to $3.4 billion per phase, a long time was required to correct the deterioration in the humanitarian situation, and there had been a deficit in financing in Phases IV and V. Thus, the programme fell short of expectations. The matter of holds, on electricity, water and sanitation, transports, telecommunications and on oil spare parts was of very serious concern, even though the humanitarian programme was not designed to satisfy all the needs of the Iraqi people.

Now, the Committee on Sanctions, the Security Council and Iraq should consider the parts of the reports that were related to each of them, he said. The Government of Iraq must, in consideration of the humanitarian condition of its people, implement the recommendations in paragraph 207 of the report, as well as those mentioned in the Secretary-General's supplementary report of 1 February 1998 that had not yet been put into effect. Paragraph 208 of the report made recommendations to the Sanctions Committee that must be implemented speedily. Recommendations to the Council, as expressed in paragraph 209, should also be put into effect. In particular, there should come an end to the situation of excessive holds.

VOLODYMYR YU. YEL'CHENKO (Ukraine) said that the Secretary-General's report had provided an objective evaluation of achievements, as well as unresolved issues and prospects for improvement. On the one hand, real progress had been made in some areas. On the other hand, the amount of accumulated unresolved problems had led to negative trends, still to be overcome. It was not known when stagnation would turn into stable progress. That depended on the Council's decisive and prompt actions, leading to the suspension and eventual lifting of sanctions.

The Secretary-General's grave concern about the humanitarian situation had been the core of his report, concerns, which his delegation had fully shared, he said. The oil industry was the backbone of the entire humanitarian programme. The findings of the group of oil experts established by the Secretary-General had been disturbing. The situation in that regard was lamentable and no longer sustainable.

He said that the experts' recommendations should be of practical use to the Council. He, therefore, supported the Secretary-General's proposal to allocate $600 million for spare parts and equipment, which would be a timely decision by the Council. Also, the Sanctions Committee should expedite procedures and establish a group of experts to facilitate the expeditious approval and arrival of the necessary spare parts to Iraq. Given the substantial increase in oil prices, all preconditions to accumulate the necessary funds for the programme's objectives had been met, but that would require full cooperation, particularly in the review and approval of contracts.

The Council had failed to implement the recommendations contained in some of its resolutions concerning Iraq, and had failed to identify, as early as possible, those items subject to holds and those about which further information was required. It had also failed to implement some of the Secretary-General's recommendations in that regard. Regrettably, the powerful tool introduced by the sanctions regime to stop aggression had become a tool to punish ordinary citizens. The Secretary-General's report made a number of critical remarks about the Iraqi Government, about which he wanted to hear more. In particular, he sought information about the state of cooperation between United Nations agencies in Iraq and the local and central authorities.

The Council suspended at 1:16 p.m.

When the Council reconvened at 3:16 p.m., CURTIS WARD (Jamaica) said a balance must be found between the need for Iraq to live up to its obligations under Security Council resolutions and the Council's humanitarian obligations to minimize hardship on Iraqi civilians. An important first step in finding a solution to Iraq's difficult humanitarian situation would be to evaluate objectively the extent to which it had been engendered by the sanctions regime. Such an impact assessment was long overdue.

Noting that the provision of humanitarian relief alone would not effectively reverse the downward trend in the statistical indicators, he said that the humanitarian situation would continue to be dire in the absence of a sustained revival of the Iraqi economy. The restoration of the economic infrastructure was essential to reversing the grim public health indicators to the levels and trajectories existing before 1991.

He said that an important hindrance to the early implementation of the humanitarian provisions of Security Council resolution 1284 (1999) was that of the holds placed on critical sectors, particularly those placed on spare parts and equipment for Iraq's oil industry and spare parts for electricity generation. In addition, removing the ceiling for oil exports was negated by the lack of capacity to sustain increased production levels. The Secretary- General had reported that the increased production level achieved in November 1999 was no longer sustainable and that recent production had decreased by 300,000 barrels per day. Equally important to Iraq's future development was the rehabilitation of its electricity infrastructure.

The lamentable state of Iraq's health sector was also a cause for great concern, he said. Jamaica recognized the importance of implementing complementary inputs to address the causes of poor health conditions. It was important and more cost-effective not only to treat diseases, but also to prevent them from occurring in the first place. The provision of safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as vaccination against preventable diseases, were crucial to maintaining the health of the population.

He said that the long-term detrimental effect of the malnourishment of 700,000 children was also cause for concern. The combination of potential developmental problems, caused by chronic malnutrition and the lack of an appropriate teaching and learning environment in Iraq's schools, did not augur well for the future development of an entire generation in the country. With children under five dying at more than twice the rate of 10 years ago, it was particularly tragic that Iraq's children had become victims of a system not of their own choosing. Council members must face the facts presented today with a positive and constructive attitude if they were to make progress in alleviating the grim situation.

Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that, in the operational discussion of the implementation of resolution 1284, a great deal could be done without crossing the well-worn lines of political differences. The "humanitarian" section of that resolution was being put into action now, but the faster the whole resolution could be implemented, the sooner the objective of suspended sanctions and security could be reached. He hoped that Iraq would agree to accept the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), so that the Commission could finish the job of disarming Iraq and continue effective monitoring. If Iraq made that choice, his Government was committed to the reality of the suspension of sanctions, and, when Iraq had fulfilled its obligations, their lifting.

Even if Iraq did not take that opportunity, he said, resolution 1284 offered the potential to do a lot for the people of Iraq, in the meantime. The ceiling on Iraq's oil sales had been lifted, the lists of educational, health, agricultural and food goods of import into Iraq had been approved, and the Sanctions Committee was looking at other positive measures. He supported the recommendation for an additional $600 million for oil parts, he said.

It was time to put the problem of holds in perspective, he said. Iraq must not import items it could use to rebuild its military or weapons of mass- destruction capability. That was the core responsibility of the Council, yet, only a small minority of members assumed a full responsibility for doing that. Another cause for holds, he said, was the lack of information about the end-use of oil-for-food products in Iraq. That could be improved by more effective monitoring and observation in that country. But, whatever the real deficiencies in the contract system, his country did all it could to approve contracts and avoid unnecessary hold-ups, he said.

The Sanctions Committee had heard convincing evidence that smugglers were exporting oil, he said. The potential revenue must now exceed $1 billion a year. That money was being spent for the sustenance and comfort of the Iraqi elite and military. He urged Iraq's neighbouring States to take steps to prevent that illegal trade and clamp down on those who sought to profit at the expense of the Iraqi people. It was time to develop an operational response. The illegal traffic insulated the Baghdad regime from the effect of the Council's policy, which was to take sanctions suspension and disarmament together. Worse, it denied the Iraqi people the full resources that should be available to them.

Iraqi obstruction had constantly hampered efforts to account for the whereabouts of the 600 Kuwaitis and others who were missing in the Gulf War. It had also failed to account for huge quantities of stolen Kuwaiti property. He welcomed the appointment of Ambassador Yuliy Vorotsov as the Secretary-General's high-level coordinator and looked forward to his report Addressing the military actions in the no-fly zones, he said that those zones were established to prevent Iraq's suppression of parts of its own people. They were justified under humanitarian law. The Kurds should not be exposed to a new threat of Iraqi suppression. He emphasized that the United Kingdom only targeted aircraft and ground facilities that targeted them. If Iraq stopped doing that, the United Kingdom would stop its own actions. United Kingdom aircraft had always tried to avoid civilian casualties, and civilian casualties were regretted. But there would be no risk if there were no Iraqi threat.

He said that implementation of the Council's resolutions, in particular the programme devised in resolution 1284, could improve the situation in Iraq. The only satisfactory outcome was for Iraq to return to full compliance with the decisions of the Council. If Iraq refused that opportunity, then it was the Council's duty to make the most of the huge opportunity offered by resolution 1284 to make a difference to the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

SELMA NDEYAPO ASHIPALA-MUSAVYI (Namibia) said that the oil-for-food programme had not been designed to meet all the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. Nor was it meant to maximize human suffering, as clearly, its effectiveness and potential positive impact were severely restrained by the factors elaborated in the Secretary-General's report. Most of those could be corrected with the necessary political will of the parties. While the Iraqi Government bore its own responsibility for the lamentable state of its oil industry and the decline in the condition of all sectors, the apparent lack of will on the part of the Council to prevent a potential massive loss of life and environmental disaster was also a cause for concern.

She recalled the Secretary-General's recommendation of last October to increase the allocation for oil spare parts and equipment, but six months later those warnings had not been heeded. The state of Iraq's oil industry had been known to the Council even before the findings of the oil experts. Long-term damage to the oil industry of that country could do permanent damage to the welfare of the Iraqi people. It was imperative, therefore, that long-term infrastructure requirements and investment were addressed, since only the revival of the Iraqi economy could address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. An Iraq with a destroyed social and economic fabric would not only affect Iraq, but also affect its neighbours.

The UNICEF representative in Baghdad had recently confirmed its findings of last year on how the children in Iraq had been disproportionately affected by the sanctions regime, she said. That deteriorating situation could result in an irreversible breakdown of the social, cultural and economic fabric. Central to that issue and hampering the effectiveness of the programme was the matter of holds and delayed deliveries, which certainly should be reviewed. The report again revealed the profoundly negative effect that such holds had on sectors crucial to the most vulnerable groups, such as children. Particularly alarming was the fact that little or no improvement had occurred in sectors such as water, sanitation and electricity.

She said that the progress recorded in relation to the arrival of medical supplies had been offset by the very high death rate from acute respiratory disease. Among those severely affected by such diseases were children. Even more frightening, one out of 10 children were being treated correctly, and only 9 per cent of pneumonia cases had been treated properly. "Let us find it in our hearts to exempt the Iraqi children", she said. One does not need to be a parent in order to "bleed" for the Iraqi children. One needs only to be human. Political concerns should not be used to address humanitarian needs. She, therefore, supported an expanded role for an observation mechanism, and the Secretary-General's call to renew efforts to resolve the outstanding issues concerning the humanitarian programme.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that poor oil-field husbandry, the direct result of the many holds on the oil spare parts and equipment, had resulted in irreversible damage to the individual oil reservoirs. Oil revenue derived from those fields was crucial to the success of the oil-for-food programme, but it should not be treated merely as an infinite source of funding for the programme. That natural resource did not belong solely to the current generation, but also to future generations of Iraqis. Hence, its sustainability should be ensured, although it had been severely, and perhaps irreparably, impaired by the numerous holds on oil spare parts. Those extra allocations should also be used to ensure the safety of personnel working in extremely hazardous conditions. There was also a need to provide for the purchase of the requisite equipment for the protection of the environment.

In that regard, he said he wished to draw attention to the potential environmental crisis "waiting to happen", as a result of the deteriorating facilities in the Mina-al-Bakr offshore loading terminal. Again, the major cause had been the holds on contracts. The Secretary-General, on numerous occasions, had alerted the Council to the potential environmental catastrophe resulting from an oil spillage. The transboundary nature of the pollution meant that the impact would not be restricted to Iraqi shores, but would be felt by Kuwait and neighbouring countries, as well. Hopefully, enhancement of the monitoring capabilities in the oil sector would result in a significant lifting of the holds. That approach should also be extended to the humanitarian sectors, where significant holds remained on critical infrastructure projects that provided for safe drinking water and the generation of electricity.

For nearly a decade, he said, the most comprehensive and punitive sanctions ever imposed on a people had destroyed Iraq as a modern State, decimated its people, ruined its agriculture, educational and health-care systems, as well as its infrastructure. The devastating effects of the sanctions had testified to the failure of comprehensive sanctions as a policy tool that violated basic human rights, indeed, the right to life itself. The sanctions regime had brought about a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. That was beyond dispute. The tragedy lay in the fact that, although much of the damage could be prevented, it had been allowed to continue. The situation was so deplorable that a group of concerned legislators in the United States Congress had characterized the sanctions regime as "infanticide masquerading as policy".

Clearly, sanctions did more than hurt, he said. Sanctions killed, especially the most vulnerable. How ironic it was that the same policy that was supposed to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction had, itself, become a weapon of mass destruction, through the deaths of innocent children. In the name of the international community, United Nations sanctions were incapacitating an entire society. To add insult to injury, the entire programme of deprivation being imposed on the Iraqi people, and the mechanism instituted for that purpose, was supported by the proceeds from the sale of their own oil. He appreciated the legitimate security concerns with respect to Iraq in the wake of its invasion of Kuwait a decade ago. Likewise, it sympathized with the families of the more than 600 Kuwaiti missing persons and other third-country nationals. The economic sanctions imposed on Iraq since 1991, however, had primarily inflicted suffering on civilians, especially the most vulnerable members of the Iraqi population.

He said that indefinite and prolonged suffering was incompatible with the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter. The deprivation caused by the embargo was equally incompatible with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed, the sanctions regime was not a form of development aid. For the unfortunate victims, poverty was a life sentence that daily crushed their human spirit and dignity. Unless that was the intended objective of the sanctions, their prolongation was "inhumane and unconscionable". The continuing economic sanctions on the Iraqi people were, therefore, "indefensible" and must be terminated as soon as possible.

It was time for the international community to craft a new policy on Iraq that addressed the legitimate security concerns, but did not inflict indiscriminate suffering upon its people. There should be no linkage between progress in disarmament and the humanitarian efforts being undertaken by the Council. The economic sanctions should be drastically overhauled and eased and "delinked" from military sanctions. The oil-for-food programme, a humanitarian measure that was meant to be temporary, was no panacea for mitigating the effects of the sanctions. Regardless of any improvements in the implementation of the current humanitarian programme, the magnitude of the humanitarian needs could not be met within the context of the parameters set forth in resolution 986 (1995). Further, resolution 1284 (1999) did not even begin to address the essence of the humanitarian problem.

The defenders of continued, relentless sanctions had argued that such measures had prevented Iraq from threatening its neighbours and rebuilding its arsenal, he said. The goal of the sanctions, however, seemed to have changed. The original resolutions had imposed sanctions to pressure Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction programmes. Certain policy statements emanating from capitals had suggested that sanctions would remain in place until certain political objectives had been achieved. Such a policy clearly undermined the original objective of the sanctions around which international consensus against Iraq had been based. Those, thus, made Iraqi children and families virtual hostages in the political deadlock between governments. The continuing demonizing of Iraq must stop if the international community was serious in its professed concern for the plight of the Iraqi people.

LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) said that the grave situation in Iraq was nothing new to the Council. From the time sanctions were imposed, the Council had been devising exceptions to it in order to avoid increasing the suffering of the Iraqi population. With the establishment of the oil-for-food programme, the situation had improved, but the resources generated by the programme were not enough. The crisis that made it impossible for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to fulfil its mandate did nothing to relieve the humanitarian situation in Iraq. The sanctions regime had been redesigned in resolution 1284, which embodied the hope that the humanitarian situation could be improved, he said. Three months after its adoption, there were some improvements, but the implementation of some provisions had been too slow. For example, the lack of some parts had made it impossible to restore electricity and provide water in some parts of the country. A solution to that problem required more than improvements that could be made in the Sanctions Committee. The infrastructure of Iraq's oil sector was lamentable, which made the exploration dangerous and environmentally unsafe. Future generations should not be punished because of those problems. Therefore, he supported the draft resolution, which would allocate $600 million to purchase spare parts for the oil sector.

He looked forward to an organizational plan for UNMOVIC in the coming days, and to a real possibility of the suspension of sanctions. That was the best way to alleviate the hardships of the Iraqi population. But, although sanctions were one of the chief causes of humanitarian problems in Iraq, those problems were compounded by the deplorable situation of human rights in that country. He hoped that, in the near future, the Iraqi people could not only have the essential means for a living, but could also live in a better political climate.

Mr. VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) wanted to add his concerns about the prisoners-of-war situation in Iraq to his earlier statement. The problem of Iraq's obligation regarding the repatriation of Kuwaiti prisoners of war or their remains must be addressed. He welcomed the appointment of Ambassador Vorontsov in that regard, and reminded Iraq of its obligation under paragraph 13 of resolution 1284.

The President of the Security Council, ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), speaking in his national capacity, said that the report dwelled at length on the present deplorable state of the oil industry of Iraq. The group of experts had noted that unless key items of spare parts and equipment were made available within a short time, Iraq's oil production would severely drop, which would seriously affect the oil-for-food programme itself. He, therefore, strongly endorsed the recommendation to increase allocation for oil spare parts to $600 million. The allocation to the proposed level would, however, be self- defeating if the requests for spare oil parts were stuck in hold.

He said that there had been serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Iraq, as well. A great deal needed to be done to improve the situation to alleviate the suffering of the common people of Iraq, who were deprived of their basic humanitarian needs. A sanction-impact assessment must be done to determine the consequences of measures that aimed at easing the suffering of the Iraqi people and improving the humanitarian situation in Iraq, he said.

The Council owed it to itself to address the problem of the devastating impact of the sanction regime on the people of Iraq. The Council must take some constructive steps. The important decision taken by the Council last month on the question of the Iraqi pilgrimage was an example of how the Council could act in a quick and innovative way. Addressing the problem of prisoners of war in Iraq, he said that, over the last decade, the matter had reached a serious point and needed urgent resolution to ameliorate the untold suffering of the large number of affected families in Kuwait and in a number of other countries, including Bangladesh. He hoped that the recently appointed coordinator of the Secretary-General on that matter would make progress in bringing that tragic situation to a close.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), CAROL BELLAMY, was invited to respond to issues raised during the Council's meeting. Regarding the statement made by the representative of France on modalities of a cash component, she said that those should be vigorously pursued. Indeed, there was consensus among those working in humanitarian issues that making cash available to the South sector was critical to the efficiency and sustainability of programmes concerning schools, health facilities, transportation, and the delivery of supplies, such as water and sewage treatment, and staffing.

Further, she fully supported the recent tasking by the Office of the Iraq Programme to conduct a cash component review and she hoped a framework for its implementation would be devised. Following the evaluation and review by United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), everyone would be in a better position to come back to possible modalities. In that connection, the participation of the Iraqi Government should also be sought.

In terms of sanctions, she said those were recognized as an instrument of the international community, but in the interests of children, sanctions should not be imposed without obligatory, immediate and enforceable exemptions and monitoring mechanisms. She did not believe that sanctions were the only factor. It should also be recognized that the country had suffered from two wars. In addition, the failure of the Iraqi Government to invest in social services had also contributed to the rise in child mortality. It would be too simple to say that the conditions had deteriorated for one reason alone.