Fears of a further disruption in Iraqi oil supplies have been allayed by the news that the US and Russia have agreed to a six-month rollover of the UN oil-for-food programme. The deal, which was due to be signed on 29 November, delays until June plans to overhaul the sanctions that have been imposed on the country since August 1990.
Washington, together with the UK, has been pushing for changes to the sanctions regime since June, but Russia, a close ally of Iraq with several lucrative oil contracts at stake, has repeatedly blocked the moves. The latest deal renews the humanitarian oil-for-food programme for a further six months, but includes a commitment to conclude talks on the so-called smart sanctions by 1 June 2002. In the ensuing six months, UN Security Council members will refine the goods review list attached as an annex to the resolution and discuss procedures for the application of the list.
The goods review list is a key component of the proposed modifications to the sanctions, which are intended to relax restrictions on Iraq's imports of civilian goods while tightening controls on military items. The list will identify goods with possible military applications that have to be approved by the UN sanctions committee before being sold to Iraq.
In return for Russia's concurrence with the latest rollover, the US has agreed to look again at UN resolution 1284, which calls for a suspension of sanctions if Baghdad permits UN weapons inspectors back into the country. The resolution was approved in December 1999.
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