Iraq compensation bill will hit $70 billion

07 March 2003
The UN Compensation Commission (UNCC), set up under UN Security Council Resolution 687 in April 1991, is likely to pay less than half the $195,000 million registered with the Geneva-based body in claims by victims of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91.

The UNCC has approved a total of $43,000 million in payments and a total of $16,681 million has already been disbursed, figures released by the commission show. 'The final amount paid is unlikely to exceed $70,000 million,' a source close to the commission said on 25 February.

The 15-person governing council of the UNCC, which exactly represents the membership of the UN Security Council, is due to meet in Geneva on 11-13 March. The key item on the agenda will be hearing the $86,000 million claim made by the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), which was a major owner of assets in Kuwait at the time of the invasion. This is the UNCC's largest outstanding claim.

Approval has already been given for the payment of a total of $24,400 million to three oil companies that suffered losses during the occupation. The bulk of this is payable to Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) and Kuwait Oil Company (KOC). A small amount is payable to ChevronTexaco Corporation, which has an oil concession in the Saudi side of the neutral zone.

Sources close to the UNCC say that the bulk of its work will be completed this year. The first compensation awards were announced in October 1994. A total of 2.6 million individual claims were registered and the majority of them have been resolved. The UNCC general council meets four times a year.

The payments are financed by 25 per cent of the revenue raised by the sale of Iraqi crude oil through the UN sanctions system. It is estimated that sales of Iraqi crude oil have realised about $20,000 million.

The revised estimate of likely compensation comes as analysts are assessing the claims on a post-crisis Iraqi government. It is estimated that outstanding commercial and government debts are now worth at least $100,000 million, though debt forgiveness measures are likely in the event of regime change in Baghdad. A further $97,000 million was awarded to Iran in a letter from the UN in 1990 for damage done by Iraq during the first Gulf war. There is, however, no mechanism through which this amount can be paid and analysts doubt whether the money will ever be handed over to Tehran.

The present source of finance for compensation is the UN's Office for the Iraq Programme (OIP), which is responsible for managing the sale of Iraqi crude oil and the distribution of goods and provision of services approved by the oil-for-food programme. The 13th plan in the programme, approved in December 2002, calls for spending of just under $5,000 million this year.

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