- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2003

The Bush administration yesterday endorsed a humanitarian role in Iraq for the U.N. Security Council, but it balked at suggestions the council should play a political role when fighting ends.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was ready to give U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan "authority to run the program throughout Iraq on an interim basis" and to use funds in the U.N. oil-for-food escrow account to pay for food, medicine and other costs."
"We share the secretary-general's goal of gaining quick Security Council consensus for a resolution that opens the way for a continuation of oil-for-food humanitarian deliveries," Mr. Boucher said.
The U.N. administered oil-for-food program, set up in 1996 to ease the effects of sanctions imposed after the first Persian Gulf war, feeds nearly two-thirds of Iraq's 26 million people.
U.N. officials believe that Iraqis have enough food to meet immediate needs unless they are driven from their homes.
As to administering Iraq, Mr. Boucher said there was no need for a U.N. mandate authorizing the United States and Britain to temporarily govern Iraq after the end of the hostilities.
"We have not proposed, nor have we discussed, any resolution that would be described as giving the United States authority to run Iraq," he said.
French President Jacques Chirac, who blocked the United Nations from backing the current military campaign to topple Saddam Hussein, said yesterday that Paris would not allow such a measure to pass in the Security Council.
To that, Mr. Boucher said, "Maybe he's opposed to something that we haven't proposed."
His remarks appeared to put the Bush administration at odds with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who suggested seeking Security Council resolutions to set up a post-Saddam government.
"We continue to press the case for fresh Security Council resolutions first, on the continuation of the oil-for-food program as a trust fund, so that Iraqi oil benefits the Iraqi people, and second, on the establishment of the post-Saddam administration," Mr. Blair told reporters after a European Union summit in Brussels.
"The United Nations should be centrally involved in the post-Saddam reconstruction of Iraq," he said.
The Bush administration has said it plans to administer Iraq temporarily after the war.
In New York yesterday, Security Council members decided to work through the weekend on a plan that would place Mr. Annan temporarily in charge of the oil-for-food program.
Mr. Annan requested the authority earlier in the week.
A resolution is expected Monday after discussions among the 15 council members sitting on a council committee set up to monitor the now-suspended program.
The United States and Britain, which had wanted to draw up the resolution, now have declined to do so.
A council diplomat told reporters that any resolution would have a better chance "without their fingerprints" in a Security Council bitterly divided over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Germany's U.N. ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, chairman of the oil-for-food committee and a leading opponent of the war, said there were no fundamental problems in adjusting the program so that basic goods could flow again to Iraq as soon as possible.
"There are no points of contention," he said after Security Council consultations yesterday. "There are only practical problems."
Members are expected to focus on immediate humanitarian aid, including the distribution of $8.9 billion in goods already ordered and paid for with Iraqi oil sales but not yet delivered.
The Bush administration argues that the United States and Britain have sufficient legal basis as the invading powers to run postwar Iraq until a civilian leadership is put in place.
"Under international law and the rules of war, the military force that goes into a place has responsibility for the welfare and the administration of the people who live there," Mr. Boucher said.
"And so that responsibility would immediately fall upon the shoulders of the American commander or the coalition commander who entered that area," he said.
But he said the administration plans "to move very rapidly from that sort of military administration into civilian administration" so that "Iraqis from inside and outside Iraq are brought into this process."
As for Iraq's immediate needs, Mr. Boucher said Mr. Annan would be allowed "to prioritize existing contracts to get the most-needed items to Iraq quickly" and "to authorize the use of "oil-for-food funds and stocks to feed Iraqi refugees who may flee or have fled the country."
In addition to funds immediately available to the United Nations, the State Department announced a U.S. commitment of $105 million in aid for the Iraqi people.
About $60 million of that amount will go to the U.N. World Food Program, $21 million to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, $10 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross and $8.6 million to the International Organization for Migration.
In addition, Mr. Boucher said, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Agriculture will send to Iraq 200,000 metric tons of wheat.

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