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Iraq hands in food distribution plan to U.N.

December 22, 1997

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq has given the United Nations the final draft of its aid distribution plan for the third phase of a special oil-for-food program, a U.N. official said Monday.

The plan, which must be approved by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, would pave the way for resumption of crude export sales by Iraq.

Earlier this month, Iraq announced it would not sell oil under the third phase until it received U.N. approval for its new plan for distributing food, medicine and other necessities.

U.N. coordinator Denis Halliday received the final text of the plan and will send on the document and its annexes 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 be in Annan’s hands in a few days.

Jarrar said the phase three document is very similar to preceding programs with most of the $1.32 billion available to Iraq going to food and medicine.

Iraq has been under U.N. sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which sparked the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The sanctions ban Iraq from exporting its oil _ its most valuable resource _ which has devastated the country’s economy.

The oil-for-food program is an exception to the sanctions. The Security Council agreed last December to allow Iraq to export $2 billion over the next six months to buy food and medicine for its 22 million people.

But Iraq refused to pump oil until its food plan was approved and took the same step at the start of the second, six-month period last June.

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.

``The government and U.N. agencies have started discussions on a special report for the secretary-general ... to propose an increase in oil sales so that the humanitarian program can be expanded,″ he said.

Halliday did not give a figure but said raising the value of oil sales each six months to $4 billion from the current $2 billion was a possibility.

He said the money now available to Iraq was not enough to meet the nutritional needs of the population.

``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 has long 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.

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