Deal reached for one-month extension of Iraq’s oil-for-food program |

Deal reached for one-month extension of Iraq’s oil-for-food program

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The major powers on the Security Council avoided a standoff over Iraq by agreeing Thursday to extend a U.N. humanitarian program for one month – time that can now be used to restructure sanctions there.

A draft of the proposal was submitted to the full, 15-member council and is expected to be adopted Friday. The current oil-for-food program expires Monday.

Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri rejected the new proposal and reiterated Iraqi threats to cut the production of oil should the Security Council eventually approve a U.S.-British sanctions proposal.

Al-Douri said Iraq would not sign any new oil contracts during the one-month extension period. ”Iraq will not conclude any oil contracts based on (the extension) and this resolution for us will be just another dead resolution.”

Iraq remains under sanctions imposed after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. But under the oil-for-food program, it can sell oil to buy approved humanitarian goods.

The short-term extension of the program marked the first time in more than two years that the five veto-wielding nations – Britain, the United States, China, Russia and France – reached agreement on Iraq.

A joint U.S.-British proposal aimed at allowing the free flow of civilian goods into Iraq while tightening a decade-old arms embargo failed to win the quick support necessary for approval by June 3, when the current oil-for-food program is up for renewal.

A counterproposal by Russia for a six-month extension, which included several additions designed to please Baghdad, was not welcome by the two English-speaking allies. Both France and China said they needed more time to study the highly technical lists of military-related items which could be banned from Iraq under the U.S.-British plan.

Under the new proposal, the current program will continue until July 3, and during that time, the council will discuss the major elements outlined in the U.S.-British draft, including improving the flow of civilian goods to Iraq, tightening controls on prohibited items from entering the country and preventing illegal oil sales.

The restructuring of sanctions is one of the Bush administration’s first foreign policy initiatives.

Unveiled on May 22, the U.S.-British plan sought to remove most restrictions on trade in consumer goods and materials for rebuilding public services. It would retain control of Iraqi oil profits through U.N.-administered escrow accounts.

U.S. and British diplomats say the plan aims to prevent Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from rearming, 10 years after the Persian Gulf War.

Western diplomats acknowledge that much needs to be done over the next 30 days to bridge differences on technical aspects as well as some substantive issues in the new plan.

On Wednesday, Al-Douri called the short-term extension an American ploy and said Iraq wants an end to all sanctions. ”We would not like any kind of partial renewal. This is a maneuver which is unacceptable to us and will not help the Iraqi people.”

AP-WS-05-31-01 1847EDT

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