‘Each offers the advantages of bulk handling facilities, warehousing for supplies and good road links with Iraq,’ the UN said in a statement.

Operations at the programme’s five traditional entry points were temporarily suspended the day before war started on 20 March when UN international staff were withdrawn for safety reasons. The principal entry port in the south of Iraq was Umm Qasr.

The UN said that a review of the oil-for-food pipeline has confirmed that only a modest portion of the supplies contracted is likely to be shipped in time to meet emergency requirements in Iraq. A limitation on rapid deliveries under the programme is the fact that commercial shipping to Iraq slowed noticeably in the run-up to war and reactivation of the delivery chain could take some time, the UN added.