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UN: Iraq Not Buying Food Under Plan

January 14, 1999

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Though the United Nations is allowing Iraq to sell some oil to buy needed food, the world body said Wednesday that it hadn’t received any recent contracts to get the food to Iraqis.

Western diplomats fear Iraq may be delaying signing such humanitarian aid contracts at a time when it is trying to increase pressure to have the U.N. oil embargo lifted.

Under the U.N. oil-for-food program, Baghdad is allowed to bypass a ban on its oil sales and sell a limited amount to buy humanitarian aid.

U.N. spokesman John Mills said Wednesday that Iraq was authorized to buy $8 million in high-protein biscuits in the last half of 1998 but hasn’t acted. He also said the world body has only received one contract to provide special therapeutic milk for severely malnourished children.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin on Wednesday pointed to the delays in ordering food by Iraq in describing what he called the Iraqi hypocrisy.

``While complaining that the Iraqi people are suffering, Iraq has failed to order and distribute food and medicine that would alleviate problems in this area,″ Rubin said.

U.N. resolutions require that Iraq destroy all its weapons of mass destruction before ending the embargo, imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Under the oil-for-food program, Iraq is allowed to sell $5.2 billion in oil over six months.

Iraq is arguing it has satisfied U.N. demands and has complained that thousands of Iraqi children have died as a result of the sanctions.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed concern about the level of infant malnutrition in Iraq.

Surveys by the government and UNICEF indicate about a quarter of children under five suffer some degree of malnutrition.

Update hourly