Bush blocks UN relief accord with Iraq

NEW YORK - The United States has moved to block a humanitarian agreement reached between Iraq and the United Nations, saying that it makes too many concessions to Baghdad at a time when President Bush is coming under attack over his policy towards Iraq, writes Leonard Doyle.

Washington moved quickly yesterday to derail the agreement, saying that it gave Baghdad too much control over the UN operation. UN officials are furious with what they deem to be interference by the US for political reasons. However, a senior US official said: 'We believe that this accord is a cave-in and poses serious dangers to the integrity of the UN humanitarian relief effort inside Iraq.'

The agreement was negotiated at the weekend after months of foot-dragging by Baghdad, which wanted to restrict the numbers and movements of UN personnel in Iraq. The new agreement would allow UN agencies to remain in Iraq until March 1993 and should ensure that desperately needed aid gets to Kurdish and Shia areas throughout the coming winter.

Humanitarian agencies say that the agreement is needed to avert a pending disaster as the flow of relief slows to a trickle during the bitterly cold winter in the mountainous Kurdish region. The deal would allow the UN to station some 300 guards, most in northern Iraq, to protect equipment and aid supplies and keep an eye on Iraq's treatment of its Kurdish and Shia populations.