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|Friday, March 09, 2001, updated at 13:28(GMT+8)|
UN Wants Smooth Flow of All Humanitarian Supplies to IraqAn official of the UN aid program in Iraq recommended Thursday that all humanitarian supplies be allowed to flow into the country without approval by UN Security Council members.
Benon Sevan, director of the UN-Iraq humanitarian program, told the Security Council that Secretary-General Kofi Annan believes that the already approved lists of items, known as the "green" lists, should be expanded to include all items, except those specified as being used for military purposes.
Under the oil-for-food humanitarian program, Iraq is allowed to sell oil to purchase humanitarian goods and some equipment to rebuild its infrastructure. Revenues from oil sales go into a UN-controlled escrow account.
Currently, thousands of items, including food and medicine, are on the "green" lists. But many others, such as equipment for upgrading Iraq's dilapidated power supply and telecom sectors, have to be approved one by one by Security Council members.
The United States has blocked more than 1,600 contracts worth 3.3 billion US dollars, many of them for power grids and telecommunications.
Sevan reiterated Annan's grave concern over the "unacceptably high level of holds placed on applications," saying the "holds" amount to more than 17 percent of those applications circulated to Security Council members for their approval.
"This is a matter of grave concern because some essential items required for key sectors such as electricity which has a direct impact on all other sectors, have been placed on hold," he said.
He said it is essential that the Security Council and the committee monitoring sanctions on Iraq ensure that all applications for humanitarian supplies are approved without any delay.
"The Iraqi people must receive all the assistance which they direly need and deserve," said the UN official.
The UN oil-for-food program was launched in 1996 to alleviate the humanitarian impact of sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.
The United States is considering easing restrictions on civilian goods while tightening control on equipment for military use.
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