Iraq ends 'oil for food' programme

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IRAQ ACCUSED Britain yesterday of championing a "colonialist resolution" in the United Nations Security Council aimed at resuming weapons inspections in the country. In a related protest, Baghdad began to shut down oil exports authorised under a special UN programme to supply Iraqis with food and medicine.

In a sharpening of diplomatic tensions between Baghdad and the UN, the Iraqi government vowed it would not co-operate with a two-week extension of the so-called "oil-for-food" regime that was agreed in the Security Council on Friday, calling the agreement "meaningless". Unless the argument is resolved, Iraq could eject UN humanitarian workers from the country.

The oil-for-food regime was due to be rolled over for six months at the end of last week, but was instead extended for just two weeks because Russia wanted the terms of the deal improved for Iraq. The fort night's roll-over is a stop-gap measure while all sides try to resolve the argument.

The oil dispute comes as the five permanent members of the council continue to wrangle over a new resolution to reinstate weapons inspections.

Iraq's oil minister condemned the draft resolution on weapons inspections that was drawn up by Britain, saying it was a "colonialist resolution that is aimed at imposing new conditions on Iraq for many years to come".