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Iraq Gives Draft Food Plan to U.N.

December 22, 1997

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq has given the United Nations the final draft of an aid distribution plan that must be approved before the next round of oil sales, a U.N. official in Baghdad said Monday.

U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, sparking the Persian Gulf War, prohibit Baghdad from exporting oil _ its most valuable resource. The Security Council agreed a year ago to let Iraq export $2 billion in oil over six months to buy food and medicine for its 22 million people.

In each round, Iraq has refused to begin pumping oil until the U.N. approves its plan to distribute food.

U.N. coordinator Denis Halliday has received Iraq’s new plan and will send it as soon as he has formal instructions from Iraq to do so, said Halliday’s spokesman, Adnan Jarrar.

Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said Sunday the plan should reach U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a few days.

Jarrar said the distribution plan for round three is very similar to preceding programs, with most of the $1.32 billion available to Iraq going to buy food and medicine.

Halliday told the AP in an interview Sunday that his relief workers were discussing with Iraqi authorities a proposal to increase the value of the allowed oil sales by the end of June ``so that the humanitarian program can be expanded.″

Halliday did not give a figure but said raising the value of oil sales to $4 billion every six months was a possibility.

The money now available to Iraq is not enough to meet the country’s nutritional needs, he said.

``With expanded resources, we would expect to improve the quality of the food basket to include animal protein, minerals, vitamins plus whole cream milk powder,″ Halliday said.

Iraq long has complained of delays at U.N. headquarters in New York in getting approval for contracts for food, medicine and other necessities. It has blamed the United States and Britain for holding up the contracts.

The Security Council has said it will end the sanctions when it certifies that Iraq has destroyed its weapons of mass destruction. Arms monitors trying to determine whether Iraq has done so have wrestled with Baghdad over access to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s presidential palaces and other protected sites.

The United States has called for stiffer action against Iraq, but has met opposition from Russia, France and other Security Council members.

Russian ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky suggested during a recent visit that a Russian plane would be the first to land at Baghdad’s main airport to challenge sanctions blocking international flights.

On Monday, Iraqi officials prepared about a dozen sheep for slaughter to celebrate the arrival of a Russian airplane at Saddam International Airport. But the plane never came, and the sheep were spared.

An Information Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a Russian passenger plane requested permission to land in Iraq after a stop in Iran, but added ``it seems″ Iranian authorities blocked the flight to Baghdad.

Iran is still an enemy of Iraq after their 1980s war.

Update hourly