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    For information only - not an official document.
    Press Release No:  UNIS/SC/1209
    Release Date:  27 March 2000
     Security Council Meets to Consider Humanitarian Situation in Iraq;
    Secretary-General Describes “Moral Dilemma” for United Nations
     

     NEW YORK, 24 March (UN Headquarters) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council today that the humanitarian situation in Iraq posed a serious moral dilemma for the United Nations, which was in danger of losing the argument, or the propaganda war -? if it had not already lost it -? about who was responsible for the situation:  President Saddam Hussein or the United Nations.

     Addressing the Council as it met to consider the humanitarian situation, and as it had before it his most recent report on meeting those humanitarian needs, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations had always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and had always sought to relieve suffering, yet in the case of Iraq, it was accused of causing suffering to an entire population.  He had repeatedly recommended a significant increase in the allocation of resources under the “oil-for-food” programme for the purchase of spare parts for the oil industry.  Fortunately, the Council now appeared ready to consider those recommendations favourably.  Even if the programme was implemented “perfectly”, however, those efforts might still prove insufficient to satisfy the population’s needs.

     The representative of the Russian Federation said that the total impoverishment of the Iraqi population had produced an entire generation of Iraqis to be maimed physically and morally and to become outcasts of the world community.  The steps being taken by the United Nations humanitarian programmes had “hardly ensured the physical survival of the people”, yet those had been their only lifeline to the outside world.  The Council was finally prepared to respond to the Secretary-General’s recommendations and double the resources for oil spare parts and equipment, yet a serious improvement in the humanitarian and socio- economic situation was impossible under the sanctions regime.  The solution was to suspend the sanctions in conjunction with a resumption of disarmament monitoring.

     The United States representative insisted that sanctions were essential as long as Iraq was not meeting its obligations under Security Council resolutions.  Iraq remained a threat.  Unanswered questions persisted in the areas of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them.  Given the long pattern of unacceptable behaviour, Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction capability would have to be monitored for some time to come.  The oil-for- food programme would never supplant the responsibilities of the Government of Iraq to provide for the needs of its people.

     Sanctions would not help solve the Iraq problem, nor were they serving the Council's intention in establishing them, the representative of China asserted. At the same time, the oil-for-food programme would never successfully address the humanitarian crisis in that country.  The solution lay in the timely removal of the sanctions.  Political difference among Council members should never make victims of innocent civilians.  Ten years after the imposition of sanctions, their humanitarian consequences had been broad and profound.  He urged a thorough review of the situation that focused on the impact of sanctions.

     The representative of the United Kingdom said the faster the implementation of Security Council resolution 1284 (1999) -- by which the Council would suspend and lift the sanctions against Iraq as soon as certain conditions were met -- the sooner that objective could be reached.  If the Iraqi Government let the United Nations finish the job of disarming the country of its weapons of mass destruction and put in place effective monitoring, his own Government was ready to suspend, and eventually lift, the sanctions.  If Iraq refused that opportunity, the Council should make the most of resolution 1284.

     The defenders of those relentless sanctions had argued that such measures had prevented Iraq from threatening its neighbours and rebuilding its arsenal, the Malaysian representative said.  The policy of retaining the sanctions until certain political objectives were achieved had made Iraqi children and families hostage to the political deadlock between governments.  For nearly a decade, the most comprehensive and punitive sanctions ever imposed on a people had destroyed a modern State.  The use of sanctions as a policy tool that violated basic rights and evolved a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions must stop.

     At the end of the meeting, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, was invited to respond to issues raised during the meeting.  She said that sanctions were recognized as an instrument of the international community, but in the interests of children, they should not be imposed without obligatory, immediate and enforceable exemptions and monitoring mechanisms.  Sanctions were not the only factor for the humanitarian crisis in Iraq:  the country had suffered the effects of two wars, and the failure of the Iraqi Government to invest in social services had also contributed to the rise in child mortality.

     The representatives of the Netherlands, France, Canada, Tunisia, Mali, Ukraine, Jamaica, Namibia, Argentina and Bangladesh also made statements.

     The meeting, which was convened at 10:47 a.m., was suspended at 1:16 p.m.  It resumed at 3:16 p.m. and was adjourned at 4:32 p.m.

     Council Work Programme

     The Security Council met this morning to discuss the programme of humanitarian assistance for Iraq, also known as the “oil-for-food” programme, as it allows the Government of Iraq to sell a certain quantity of oil and use the proceeds for humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people.  The programme was established by the Council in 1995 as a temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, in the context of the sanctions regime applied to Iraq in 1990 and in force until it complies with resolution 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991.  That resolution, among other things, set the terms for the ceasefire between Iraq and Kuwait and decided that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction should be destroyed.

     It had before it a report of the Secretary-General (document S/2000/208), submitted pursuant to Council requests in resolutions 1284 (1999) and 1281 (1999) to report on:  progress made in meeting the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and on the revenues necessary to meet those needs; Iraq's existing petroleum production and export capacity, as well as recommendations for increasing that capacity; and whether Iraq has ensured the equitable distribution of medicine, health supplies, foodstuffs, and materials and supplies for essential civilian needs.

     For the preparation of the report, the Office of the Iraq Programme undertook an inter-agency review of the humanitarian programme, which was established by resolution 986 of 14 April 1995 and is currently in its seventh phase, effective 11 December 1999.  It also undertook a review of the whole process of contracting, application processing, obtaining approval by the Security Council Committee established by resolution 661 (1990) concerning sanctions, procurement and shipment, as well as the timely distribution of humanitarian supplies within Iraq.

     The report also examines the extent to which the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General's supplementary report dated 1 February 1998 (document S/1998/90), as endorsed by the Council, have been implemented and identifies additional measures aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the programme, with a view to achieving substantial improvement in both the health and nutritional status of the population and also to address the deterioration of social services infrastructure.

     In his introduction, the Secretary-General states that, in any assessment of the programme and its implementation, it is essential to bear in mind the exceptional and unprecedented complexity of the programme and that it should not, therefore, be confused with a development programme and the requirements of such a programme.  Further, he states, despite the great increase in the range of resource available to meet humanitarian needs throughout Iraq, the programme was never intended to meet all humanitarian needs and must be assessed in that context.

     Section II, on revenue generation and status of the oil industry, contains sections on oil production and sale of petroleum and petroleum products, status of the oil industry, and United Nations accounts pertaining to the oil industry. It states that, for phases I to VI, total crude oil export from Iraq under the programme amounted to 1.5 billion barrels, with a value of $20.7 billion.

     Concerning the status of the oil industry, the report summarizes a more detailed report of the group of experts established by the Secretary-General to report on Iraq’s existing petroleum production and export capacity, as well as to make recommendations for increasing that capacity.  The full report is being supplied to the Council.  The experts, who visited Iraq from 16 to 31 January 2000, analyse production, investment levels, refining, transportation and storage, spare parts and equipment.

     The report states that since sanctions were imposed in 1990, the oil industry of Iraq has suffered seriously as a result of the absence of the required spare parts and equipment.  There has been a massive decline in the condition, effectiveness and efficiency of the oil infrastructure.  In general, the group of experts reports that the “previously noted generally lamentable state” of the Iraqi oil industry had not improved.  The decline in the condition of all sectors of the industry continued and was accelerating.  “Without prompt action”, it states, “a continued decline in production is strongly indicated.”

     Section III of the Secretary-General’s report, Observation and Monitoring Activities, describes the inspection and authentication of humanitarian supplies, the monitoring of oil spare parts and equipment, and the United Nations observation mechanism.  Section IV covers the processing and approval of applications, while Section V describes the effectiveness, equitability and adequacy of the programme implementation.  There are two annexes, one on the status of the United Nations accounts pertaining to the Iraq programme and a second on the number and value of letters of credit pertaining to oil proceeds and humanitarian supplies.

     In the report’s conclusions, the Secretary-General states that the adequacy of the programme to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population had been a continuing concern throughout the period of implementation of Council resolution 986 (1995).  Despite the difficulties and shortcomings identified in his report, the programme has provided substantial assistance in all sectors to address pressing humanitarian needs affecting the lives of the Iraqi people.  The total amount of funds made available for the implementation of the programme from December 1996 to 31 January 2000 was $13.2 billion.  As at 31 January, the total value of the supplies delivered to Iraq was $6.7 billion -- including over 13 million tons of food basket items valued at $4.4 billion and health supplies worth just under $840 million.  Additional approved supplies with a total value of $2.7 billion were awaiting delivery, and additional supplies were being contracted during phase VII.

     The Secretary-General states that, by adopting resolution 1284 on 17 December 1999, the Security Council responded to concerns that the underlying weaknesses in the implementation of resolutions 986 (1995) and 1153 (1998) had not been adequately addressed and that, consequently, improvements in the humanitarian situation have been below expectations.  The Secretary-General is hopeful that effective implementation of the provisions of section C of resolution 1284, which addresses those weaknesses, will enhance the impact of the programme.

     By the same resolution, the Council lifted the ceiling on revenues earned by oil exports which, coupled with the present increase in the price of oil, will make more funds available for the implementation of the programme, he continues.  However, lifting the ceiling and authorizing improvements in programme implementation alone will not suffice.  The effectiveness of the programme has suffered considerably, not only because of shortfalls in the funding level, but also because of the very large number of applications placed on hold (at 31 January, the total value of those applications was over $1.5 billion).  In that regard, the Secretary-General reiterates his appeal for a further review and reconsideration of positions taken with regard to applications placed on hold.

     The Secretary-General states that he has directed the Office of the Iraq Programme to review further the information requirements of the Security Council Sanctions Committee in respect of applications placed on hold.  Further, he has directed the Office to identify ways in which the observation mechanism can more effectively track and report on a programme that is rapidly increasing in size and complexity and to enhance observation procedures for items of special interest to the Committee.

     The Secretary-General also calls upon the Government of Iraq:

     -- To move away from an inventory-based approach to the distribution plan in favour of a project-oriented one;

     -- To share with the programme all existing baseline data relevant to the programme and, where such data do not exist, to collaborate with the programme in collecting such data through joint surveys and reviews;

     -- To share all technical data related to the electricity grid in the three northern governorates so that the rehabilitation there is compatible with established Iraqi engineering standards and specifications;

     -- To consider employing internationally recognized pre-shipment inspection agents at the port of shipment using funds in the United Nations Iraq account to improve food quality control;

     -- To strengthen cooperation with United Nations observers to ensure unhindered and timely access to all facilities and end-users, notably in the health and education sectors;

     -- To ensure that the food basket is distributed regularly and in full each month in order to meet the current nutritional target of 2,300 kilocalories and 54.2 grams of protein per person per day. However, until his recommendations on supplementary feeding programmes are fully implemented, the Government's distribution plan should retain the target provision for the food basket of 2,463 kilocalories and 63.6 grams of protein per person per day to meet the immediate nutritional needs of the Iraqi population;

     -- To establish efficient distribution networks for targeted nutrition and supplementary feeding programmes;

     -- To ensure adequate funding in the health sector for phases IV to VI to cover recurrent costs and to provide the framework for the restoration of the basic public health care system; and

     -- To improve the delivery and administration of drugs for chronic illnesses and ensure that sufficient quantities of anti-infectious and anti- tuberculosis drugs are ordered and distributed.

     The Secretary-General also recommends that the Security Council Committee:

     -- Improve further its working procedures and understandings with a view to expediting the approval of applications;

     -- Identify with greater clarity the reasons for which applications have been placed on hold so that the Office of the Iraq Programme, in consultation with all concerned, may provide all available information to facilitate the lifting of such holds;

     -- Streamline the processes by which such holds can be lifted;

     -- Renew its efforts to reach consensus on the proposal submitted by the Office of the Iraq Programme on 11 February 1999 for a new system to expedite the rate at which funds are reimbursed from the ESC (13 per cent) to the ESB (53 per cent) accounts;

     -- Review further the options contained in the paper submitted on 7 July 1999 by the Office of the Iraq Programme concerning payment clauses for the ESB (53 per cent) account in order to meet the legitimate need to provide commercial protection for purchases made by the Government of Iraq within the provisions of the rules and regulations governing the implementation of the programme; and

     -- Address the difficulties encountered in the appointment of additional oil overseers in order to correct the present untenable situation.

     Concerned with the deteriorating condition of the oil industry of Iraq, the Secretary-General reiterates his earlier recommendation that the Council approve the request to increase by $300 million the allocation for oil spare parts and equipment for phase VI.  He also recommends that the Council approve the allocation of an additional $300 million for spare parts and equipment for phase VII in order to offset permanent damage to oil-bearing structures in Iraq.

     Raising the level of allocations alone is not sufficient, the report continues.  A special effort must be made to approve most expeditiously the applications for oil spare parts and equipment.  The total value of applications placed on hold as at 31 January was $291 million, more than half of the total of $506 million approved.

     The Secretary-General states that, despite the measures adopted to improve the funding level and widen the scope of the programme, its full potential has not been attained because of the numerous difficulties described in the report.  Accordingly, he appeals once more to all concerned “to intensify their efforts in order to enable the programme to address more effectively the difficult conditions under which the Iraqi people continue to live”.

     Statements

     Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that the oil-for-food programme, in existence for over three years, had, as its purpose, to alleviate the impact of sanctions on the Iraqi population, since they were not the targets.  It had undoubtedly brought them some relief, but many of the essential needs of the population remained unsatisfied.  In its original form, it had been subjected to very tight restrictions, both on the types of goods Iraq was allowed to import -? which had been limited to food and medicine and other strictly humanitarian needs ?- and on the revenue it was allowed to generate by oil exports.

     He said that, as a result of decisions made by the Council over the last three years, the list of item Iraq was allowed to import had been considerably expanded and liberalized.  Now, under the terms of resolution 1284 (1999), the ceiling on oil imports had been completely eliminated.  Also, the recent rise in the price of oil had greatly increased the value of exports, with the result that a much larger income was now available for the programme.  Iraq’s oil industry, however, was “seriously hampered” by a lack of parts and equipment, and that had threatened to undermine the programme’s income in the longer term.

     Thus, he said, he had repeatedly recommended a significant increase in the allocation of resources under the programme for the purchase of spare parts for the oil industry.  The Council was now ready to consider those recommendations favourably, which he had welcomed.  For one thing, a mechanism was needed to review the “holds” on contract applications, which had a direct negative impact on the humanitarian programme and on efforts to rehabilitate Iraq’s infrastructure, most of which was in “appalling disrepair”.  The cooperation of the Iraqi Government was also required.  In that regard, he urged them to take all necessary steps to ensure the effective and prompt distribution of the imported items.

     As soon as the programme was amended by a fully implemented resolution 1284, there would soon be considerable improvement in the humanitarian situation, he went on.  Even if it was implemented “perfectly”, however, it was possible that the efforts would prove insufficient to satisfy the population’s needs.  The Council, therefore, should keep the effectiveness and impact of the programme constantly under review, and take further steps to improve it, should that prove necessary.  The humanitarian situation in Iraq had posed a “serious moral dilemma” for the Organization.  The United Nations had always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and had always sought to relieve suffering, yet here it was accused of “causing” suffering to an entire population.

     He said the United Nations was in danger of losing the argument, or the propaganda war -? if that had not already been lost -? about who was responsible for the situation in Iraq:  President Saddam Hussein or the United Nations.  He was particularly concerned about the situation of Iraqi children whose suffering and, in all too many cases, untimely death, had been documented in the report prepared by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Iraqi Health Ministry last year.  That report had shown that, in the centre and south of the country, infant mortality and morbidity had increased dramatically and reached unacceptable levels.

     “We cannot in all conscience ignore such reports, or assume that they are wrong”, he said.  It was imperative that everyone -? the Secretariat, the Council and the Sanctions Committee -? implement fully and expeditiously what the Council’s resolutions had demanded.  He was pleased to hear that the Committee was now ready to provide the list of drugs and other medical supplies, which, under resolution 1284, the Secretariat would, henceforth, be able to approve on its own authority.  Indeed, the Council should seek every opportunity to alleviate the suffering of the population.

     He said that the people of a State that was the object of sanctions must always, to some degree, be victims, often of their own government and of the measures taken against it.  The only satisfactory outcome of any such situation was for the State in question to return to full compliance with the Council’s decisions, so that sanctions could be ended as quickly as possible.  Undoubtedly, everyone looked forward, with impatience, to the day when that would happen in Iraq.

     
     NOTE: Summarized statements are available upon specific request. Please contact 260 60 - 3336

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