UN debates proposal to seize Iraqi assets

New York - In a move to further undermine the regime of President Saddam Hussein, the US and its allies are looking for international approval to seize Iraq's frozen assets to fund the UN weapons inspection programme and to get aid to the Kurds and others before winter, writes Leonard Doyle.

Sir David Hannay, the British Ambassador to the UN, said yesterday that the resolution could be approved 'in a few days' despite objections from legal experts and other members of the Council. Iraqi oil assets in US banks are the main target and many expect President Bush to crow about the achievement of seizing these funds while on the election hustings. After the Gulf war Iraq's overseas assets were frozen worldwide, but to the dismay of the West the government appears to have hidden resources.

The new resolution is restricted to money derived from oil, Iraq's main export, and it permits states to deduct any debts before handing the money over for UN programmes. There is also a dollars 200m ( pounds 117m) limit on funds they would be required to seize. The US and its allies had hoped to force Iraq to sell oil under strict UN supervision, but Baghdad refused in the hope that the financially-burdened UN would abandon the ambitious war reparations programme.

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