‘UN independent inspection agents who have the responsibility for confirming and authenticating humanitarian deliveries at the programme’s five authorised border entry points have left Iraq,’ the spokesman said. ‘This means no further traffic of humanitarian goods under oil-for-food is possible through those entry points.’

The UN said that oil continues to flow from Kirkuk, Iraq’s principal oil production centre, through the oil pipeline to Turkey and vessels are continuing to load at the authorised Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan. This and Mina al-Bakr are the only authorised outlets for Iraqi oil exports under the oil-for-food programme.

The spokesman said that Iraq exported a total of 12.7 million barrels of crude oil, equivalent to 1.8 million barrels a day (b/d) in 8-14 March. This generated $340 million in revenues. Iraq exported 1.4 million b/d in the previous week. Almost half of the oil was loaded at Mina al-Bakr. The UN said the average price of oil in the week was $27.6 a barrel.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced on 17 March that all UN staff would leave Iraq in anticipation of the launch of war in Iraq. This has led to the departure of the international staff working for the World Food Programme on the oil-for-food distribution programme in northern Iraq. UN officials say most Iraqis who depend upon the oil-for-food programme have been given four-six weeks of rations.