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U.N. May Bolster Iraq Inspections

May 24, 1998

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ The United Nations plans to bolster inspections and monitoring of the oil-for-food deal when the program expands under its next phase, U.N. officials said Sunday.

``A new and enhanced phase is about to start, and the United Nations is looking at strengthening the observation mechanism,″ said Eric Falt, the U.N. spokesman in Iraq.

Among the plans are to make inspection teams bigger, increase the number of visits, improve training and set up observation centers outside the Iraqi capital, U.N. officials said.

Under the new program, scheduled to start June 4, Iraq will import as much as $3 billion over six months. So far, its imports under the U.N. deal have been about $1.3 billion.

Since December 1996, when the United Nations granted exemptions from the sanctions, Iraq has exported $2 billion in oil every six months to pay for imports, war reparations and U.N. operations in Iraq. Under the next phase, it can export up to $5.2 billion.

The sanctions were imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, causing widespread shortages in the once-wealthy country.

As part of the deal, the United Nations has 151 observers in Iraq to ensure that food supplies reaching the country are equitably distributed among Iraqis.

The observers also try to verify that imported medicine, spare parts and machinery are not diverted to the military.

Denis Halliday, the U.N. coordinator in Iraq, said he believed no additional personnel would be needed.

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