- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2003

NEW YORK The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution yesterday to restart a humanitarian food program for Iraq once the U.S.-led war winds down.
The resolution gives Secretary-General Kofi Annan control for the next 45 days over the humanitarian side of the U.N. program, which uses Iraq's oil revenue for medical supplies and food. The program had been feeding 60 percent of Iraq's 22 million people.
The Security Council's action came a day after President Bush and Tony Blair joined in a call for the United Nations to resume the program, which Mr. Bush said was becoming "politicized" by antiwar nations.
The military situation will determine how quickly the United Nations can return its staff to Iraq to begin distributing the aid, Mr. Annan said. He pulled U.N. workers out a day before the war began last week.
The Security Council agreed on the wording of the resolution Thursday night after a week of acrimonious negotiations.
Gunter Pleuger, Germany's U.N. ambassador, who chaired the negotiations, called the program "the biggest humanitarian assistance program in the history of the U.N." and said quick implementation was crucial to preventing a disaster.
After the vote, he thanked members for "the spirit of compromise" that led to the unanimous adoption of the resolution.
"This is a signal to the people that they are not forgotten," Mr. Pleuger said.
The Security Council has been bitterly divided over the U.S.-led war. France, Russia, Germany and China opposed military action, arguing that Iraq could be disarmed peacefully through strengthened U.N. weapons inspections.
"On the basis of this humanitarian text, the Security Council has recovered its unity, and that is an important result as well," said France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere.
"Today's vote will translate into concrete results on the ground," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said.
"The people of Iraq have suffered too long" under a regime not of their choosing, he said.
Despite the council's ability to agree on humanitarian aid for Iraq, contentious negotiations are expected over future resolutions dealing with the oil-for-food program and the administration and reconstruction of postwar Iraq.
More than 80 nations spoke Wednesday and Thursday at the first open council meeting since U.S. and British forces began their military campaign last week.
Mr. Negroponte walked out of the council Thursday after Iraq's envoy accused Washington of trying to exterminate the Iraqi people.
The oil-for-food program has allowed Iraq to sell unlimited quantities of oil provided that the money goes mainly to buying food, medicine and other humanitarian goods. The oil proceeds are deposited in a U.N.-controlled escrow account.
Russia and Syria had insisted that the oil-for-food resolution should not legitimize the war, presuppose a change in Iraq's leadership or give the United States control over the escrow account, which contains billions of dollars. Russia was also concerned about Iraqi sovereignty over oil resources.
The resolution reaffirms "the respect for the right of the people of Iraq to determine their own political future and to control their own natural resources."
It also notes that "the occupying power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population."
The oil-for-food program was adopted in 1995 to help Iraqis cope with sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait in 1990.
In a related development, Hans Blix will stand down as chief U.N. weapons inspector when his contract runs out in June, his spokesman told the Agence France-Presse yesterday.
"Doctor Blix will not look to renew [the] contract when it expires at the end of June," spokesman Ewen Buchanan said.
Mr. Blix led U.N. inspections in Iraq after a November Security Council resolution warning Iraq of "serious consequences" if it failed to disclose and destroy its weapons of mass destruction.
The U.N. inspectors left before the beginning of the war last week.

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