- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 18 (UPI) — The U.S. State Department Tuesday began "a new phase of diplomacy" focusing on finding ways to sustain the United Nation's oil-for-food program; managing a new coalition to topple Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government; and soliciting international support for the rebuilding of Iraq.

"We're moving into a new phase of diplomacy," Secretary of State Colin Powell told his senior staff Tuesday, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "We need to turn our energies and our attention to what follows."

The new phase of diplomacy will focus on at first on maintaining the existing coalition of around 45 countries who are contributing to disarm Iraq. Only 30 nations have agreed to have their names included in a public list that does not include Kuwait, where 149,000 troops are currently based.

Boucher said, "The second point is to start focusing more on the humanitarian situation, if it comes to conflict, and the potential aftermath. And the third is to consider how well we need to do if the military has to do their job in the aftermath of a conflict in order to reestablish things like the oil-for-food program on a new basis."

The dilemma of the oil-for-food program is that it currently requires the government of Iraq to submit a list of goods it needs to purchase from an account in Paris that collects the revenues from its oil program.

If the current Iraqi regime falls, the job of submitting requests for food and humanitarian relief for Iraq would likely fall to an interim U.S. authority in the aftermath of the conflict.

"We'll be consulting with the United Nations and other council members on adjustments to the current program that can ensure continued delivery of oil-for-food supplies," Boucher said. "A new U.N. Security Council resolution will be necessary to ensure that foodstuffs and medical goods are available for the needs of Iraqi civilians."

Boucher also said Tuesday that the United States was in contact with several other countries on the need to keep the oil-for-food program operational in the aftermath of the war.

On Sunday, the statement signed by the heads of Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States said the U.N. secretary-general would be given temporary authority to ensure the oil-for-food program meets the needs of the Iraqi people.

"We have been in touch with others who are interested in the humanitarian situation, such as the European Union, such as the United Nations organizations, such as individual governments like Japan, who are interested in the humanitarian situation and then in the aftermath, the questions of rehabilitation, reconstruction, helping the Iraqis put things back together after so many, many years of tyranny in this rule," Boucher added.

Boucher also said Tuesday that Powell would not attend a U.N. Security Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the key remaining tasks for Iraq to disarm.

Given President George W. Bush's ultimatum to Saddam to step down by 8:15 p.m. Wednesday EDT, and the consequences if he does not, "You have to wonder what this is all about," Boucher said.

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