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Washington blocks $5bn supplies to Iraq

21 February 2002

The UN's humanitarian programme in Iraq has been hampered by a record $5.3bn (3.7bn) worth of blocked supplies, mainly by the US, it was revealed yesterday.

The contracts include some $4.6bn worth of humanitarian supplies and $703m for oil industry equipment, the UN office of the Iraq programme said in its weekly report.

Many of the contracts are approved individually by a security council sanctions committee, any one of whose 15 members can block them. The US has put "on hold" nearly all of the blocked contracts while Britain shares objections on some $500,000 worth of contracts under the UN oil-for-food programme, committee members say.

The programme allows Iraq to sell oil in order to buy essential supplies.

But the oil revenues have to be deposited in a UN account out of which the goods Iraq orders are paid and reparations to Gulf war victims are made.

Iraq sold nearly $11bn worth of oil last year under the programme.

Baghdad routinely puts out higher figures for the blocked contracts, and this week reported $8bn worth of supplies, which it blamed equally on the US and Britain. UN officials say the figures are inaccurate.

They claim that Iraq was including in its numbers every contract submitted, which UN officials had not approved or were still pending.

These included contracts not yet processed by UN officials, those where information was missing and those drawn up improperly by a supplier and not yet resubmitted before reaching the security council's sanctions committee.

Reuters (New York)
Published in The Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

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