|3. The US and Britain have
delayed and blocked some oil-for-food
Every contract made under the oil for
food programme has to be approved by a
Sanctions Committee with representatives
of all 15 members of the UN Security
Council. Phase I of the programme was
supposed to run from December 1996 to
June 1997 but UN figures show that the
Committee is still blocking or delaying
approval of 49 out of 879 contracts
submitted to it. The classic case was a
consignment of ambulances held up for
months because they might have a 'dual
use' as military vehicles.
can't work out whether the delays are
caused by bureaucracy or conspiracy. The Iraqis say
it's a conspiracy, that the US and
Britain have used their influence to
delay supplies on purpose. But they would
say that, wouldn't they.
I was more taken aback to hear a Western
diplomat passionately taking the same
line. He'd be fired if I told you who he
was, which makes it harder for you to
assess what he's saying than me. He said:
Iraqis play it up a little too much
sometimes but it is a fact. If
anyone is wrong, then it is two countries
who have shamelessly blocked contracts.
It has been disgusting to watch."
A third-world diplomat was more inclined
to blame bureaucracy and a desire by big
countries to make sure supply contracts
went to their companies. "I would
blame it on the mindset of the
bureaucracy rather than on
politics," he said.
Either way, there's no doubt that the
biggest delays have been, firstly, in
obtaining approvals of contracts from the
Sanctions Committee and, secondly, in
shipping supplies to Iraq. UN figures
show that on average, contracts under
Phase 1 of the oil-for-food programme
took 125 days to receive approval from
the Sanctions Committee and to be shipped
to Iraq. Actual distribution once the
goods arrived in Iraq took on average
just 7 days.
It's bad enough that Iraqi children are
dying because the oil-for-food programme
has been running behind schedule. If the
United States and Britain have
deliberately been delaying and disrupting
the programme to try to undermine Saddam
Hussein, it's downright wrong.
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