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Saddam Decries U.N. Oil Program

May 9, 2001

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ President Saddam Hussein has criticized the United Nations for diverting more than half of Iraq’s oil revenues to cover items including U.N. administrative costs and war reparations, Iraqi newspapers reported Wednesday.

Iraq often has complained about the U.N. oil-for-food program set up in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil despite U.N. sanctions in place since Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Nearly 30 cents of every dollar earned is diverted to pay for Gulf War reparations and U.N. administrative and operational costs.

Money from the program is also used to provide humanitarian aid to Kurds in the north, which is not under Iraqi government control. The Iraqi government gets what is left for strictly regulated purchases.

An Iraqi Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday that the government maintains U.N. overhead costs are too high. The official said the United Nations could save money by replacing most foreign staff with Iraqis.

Saddam, speaking Tuesday night to ministers and experts from his ministries of health and industry, called the U.N. program ``a new colonizing of Iraq’s resources.″

``The ... money we get does not exceed 50 percent″ of the value of the oil shipped under the U.N. program, Saddam was quoted as telling the officials.

A Trade Ministry report issued in April says Iraq has exported more than $43 billion in oil since the U.N. program began and has received far less than half the amount in contracted items so far.

``We cannot accept this colonialism,″ Saddam was quoted as saying Tuesday night. ``They know, our people know that we cannot allow this situation to continue.″

The United States and Britain have often used their positions on the committee to veto contracts for items that could have a dual, military use.

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