- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Countries that fail to honor U.N. and international sanctions programs should face sanctions and other punitive measures themselves, a top U.S. official to the United Nations told Congress yesterday.

Thomas A. Schweich, chief of staff to the U.S. mission at the United Nations in New York, also told a House Government Reform subcommittee hearing yesterday that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had a “pull-down menu” for frustrating sanctions under the troubled U.N. oil-for-food program, relying on Syria and other Security Council members to undermine the sanctions program.

“All member-states are obligated to implement [sanctions] decisions,” Mr. Schweich said.

“However, certain states, either through a lack of capacity or lack of political will, or both, have … failed to fulfill their enforcement obligations,” he said.

Among the penalties the United Nations could impose on members who violate sanctions, he said, are trade restrictions or revoking travel privileges for senior leaders.

The United Nations is reeling from revelations relating to the oil-for-food program, designed to allow Saddam to sell Iraqi oil to buy food, medicine and humanitarian goods.

The congressional Government Accountability Office estimated last year that Saddam’s regime skimmed off some $10 billion from the seven-year program that ended in 2003, through oil smuggling, inflated contracts and kickbacks.

Mr. Schweich’s written testimony suggested that states ignoring sanctions programs should face a “possible loss of U.N. privileges” including a General Assembly vote.

But he told lawmakers the testimony was modified after State Department lawyers determined there was no legal ground to take away a country’s voting rights in the General Assembly.

Congress is conducting a number of investigations of the U.N. program, which is also the subject of a Department of Justice probe and an internal U.N. investigation headed by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker.

Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican and chairman of the panel’s subcommittee on national security, emerging threats and international relations, said tepid support from the U.N. bureaucracy and from other member-states made the oil-for-food scandal “inevitable.”

“For too long, we were all blind to the sordid realities of a U.N. Security Council mired in Saddam’s anti-sanctions propaganda and the unseemly pursuit of commercial interests by some member-states,” he said.

Mr. Schweich singled out Syria, which he said continually opposed efforts by the United States and Britain to strengthen Iraqi sanctions, secretly buying Iraqi oil while denying it was doing so in the Security Council.

Mr. Volcker’s investigators have slammed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for lax oversight of the oil-for-food programs, and have raised new questions about conflicts of interest involving Benon Sevan, the Cypriot diplomat who reportedly profited from oil-for-food deals even as he was managing the U.N. program.

“How anyone could defend this program is beyond me,” said Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr., Tennessee Republican.

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