No timetable yet for new oil-for-food resolution

27 March 2003
Discussions have started about a draft resolution adjusting the UN oil-for-food programme established under UN Security Council resolution 986 and operating since March 1997, but there is no date when it will be debated by the council, Whitehall sources told MEED on 27 March. The first debate about Iraq since the UN-coalition started its attack on 20 March opened on 26 March, but it is likely to focus initially on military and political issues, the sources add

The draft oil-for-food resolution will call for the UN to be mandated to manage the programme which provides for part of Iraq's crude oil export revenues to be used to pay for humanitarian goods distributed to the Iraqi people. On 17 March, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan instructed all UN international staff to leave Iraq. This led to the suspension of the oil-for-food programme. The final food deliveries under the system were reported on 18 March.

Under the present scheme, the distribution of humanitarian goods is managed by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in the north of Iraq. In southern and central areas, distribution is handled by the Baghdad government. Deliveries of humanitarian goods to the WFP are managed by the government of Iraq.

Since 17 March, the five authorised delivery points for humanitarian goods on Iraqi borders have been closed. Shipments of oil under the programme ended on the same day from Mina al-Bakr, the principal Iraqi oil export terminal in southern Iraq. Liftings of Iraqi crude under the programme from Ceyhan have effectively ended, although the pipeline linking Kirkuk with the port is still functioning.

About 16 million people are wholly or partly dependent upon humanitarian goods delivered under the programme. The WFP estimates that most Iraqis have sufficient rations to last until the end of April.

Iraqi oil exports under the oil-for-food programme fell during in the week ending 21 March to 3.1 million barrels, equivalent to 443,000 barrels a day (b/d), worth about $63 million. This compares with an average of just over 1.8 million b/d in the previous week. The last recorded loading at Ceyhan was a shipment of about 625,000 barrels on 20 March. The UN says that no other vessels are currently expected at Ceyhan. Storage tanks at the terminal are near capacity. UN oil overseers approved one new oil purchase contract in the week ending 21 March.

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