- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

NEW YORK Angry Security Council members are predicting a showdown next week over the renewal of a U.N. humanitarian program that was torpedoed by a last-minute U.S. push to further restrict military-related imports to Iraq.
Several council diplomats blamed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for shattering a broad agreement reached last Friday by Security Council experts to expand the oil-for-food humanitarian program in Iraq for the usual six months.
On Monday, the United States suddenly insisted on a maximum three-month extension and a review of the U.N. list of military-related goods that Iraq requires approval to import. Much of the council objected because it would run out in late February or early March, a time many military analysts say is optimal for an attack on Iraq.
As a result, the oil-for-food program was extended for just nine days until Dec. 4 to allow more time to resolve the dispute.
"Frankly speaking at least 14 members were upset, because this is complicating the work of the council," Syria's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad said.
With U.N. weapons inspections resuming yesterday after nearly four years, diplomats said it is critical to preserve the hard-won unity that led to the council's unanimous adoption on Nov. 8 of a new resolution on Iraq's disarmament.
As Monday's tense council meeting was breaking up, council diplomats said Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov protested that Washington had given Moscow assurances that there would be no problems with the six-month extension of the humanitarian program if the council approved the new Resolution 1441.
"Ambassador Lavrov said that there were assurances for him before the adoption of 1441 that the American side would cooperate and be flexible on the oil-for-food program and its extension, and what's happening is the opposite," Mr. Mekdad said.
Several diplomats quoted Mr. Lavrov as saying Secretary of State Colin L. Powell gave the assurance to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov during intense negotiations on the resolution.
But Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said: "There absolutely has been no quid pro quo."
Western diplomats predicted the Americans are not going to get a three-month extension next week, but they may get some kind of a commitment on a review of the list. One said the State Department supported the six-month extension, but not the Pentagon.
"Hopefully the Americans will come on board for 180 days," Mr. Mekdad said.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the United States wants nerve gas antidotes, jamming equipment, and other communications items added to the list to ensure that it "is not exploited or utilized in any way by the government of Iraq to import items for military purpose under civilian guise."
The U.S.-drafted list includes everything from high-speed computers to heavy-duty trucks.
The oil-for-food program, funded by revenue from Iraqi oil sales, allows Baghdad to purchase food, medicine and other humanitarian goods while sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait remain in effect.
The list of items with potential military applications was established in May as part of an overhaul of the oil-for-food program. It was designed to speed delivery of humanitarian aid and counter growing criticism that sanctions have hurt ordinary Iraqis. Before Iraq can order items on the list, they must be individually approved by the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Iraq.


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