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U.N. Members OK Iraq Aid Extension

November 23, 2002

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Security Council experts reached agreement Friday on a six-month extension of the U.N. humanitarian program in Iraq which would require a review within 90 days of the goods that Baghdad must get U.N. approval to import.

British diplomat Gerard McGurk said the experts ``reached broad agreement″ on the text of a resolution, which is expected to be adopted by the 15-member Security Council on Monday. China and France had some minor issues and wanted to consult their capitals, diplomats said.

The current six-month phase of the oil-for-food humanitarian program ends Monday.

Under a new system adopted by the council in the summer to speed the delivery of goods, Iraq can purchase any humanitarian items except those that may have a possible military use. So-called ``dual-use″ items on a ``goods review list″ must be individually approved by the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Iraq.

The initial draft resolution to renew the oil-for-food humanitarian program, which was circulated Thursday, called for the first review of the list and its operation to be conducted before the six-month extension ends.

But council diplomats said the U.S. Defense Department wants to add some items sooner, and the United States pushed to have a quicker review. ``We’ll just shorten the time period for the review from 180 days to 90 days,″ a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The latest draft would provide up to 180 days to review the procedures for implementing the list.

Syria’s deputy U.N. ambassador Fayssal Mekdad opposed any change and it was unclear how Damascus would vote on Monday.

``We are unhappy with any change,″ he said. ``What’s important for Syria is to relieve humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people in any review, so we oppose any attempt to enter new items,″ he said.

But other council diplomats noted that the original resolution envisaged continuing reviews of the list and its operation to enure that the new and complex system was working, to make any adjustments that were needed, and to cover the issue of possible technical innovations.

Mekdad said it was also ``the worst time″ to undertake a review because U.N. weapons inspections are set to resume in Iraq next week after four years, and Baghdad faces the threat of ``serious consequences″ if it doesn’t cooperate.

``We have to work together to solve peacefully the Iraqi issue, not complicate it,″ the Syrian envoy said.

The U.N. program provides food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people trying to cope with sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

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