US accuses Iraq over oil deal

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The Independent Online
New York - The United States yesterday accused Iraq of trying to use a strictly limited oil-for-food agreement reached with the United Nations in May as a means to circumvent the broader trade sanctions imposed upon it after the Gulf War.

The deal, achieved after months of acrimonious negotiations, was designed to permit Iraq to export up to $2bn (pounds 1.3bn) worth of oil over six months on condition that the proceeds were used exclusively for the purchase of urgently needed humanitarian supplies, including food and medicines.

Yesterday, however, the US served notice that a plan from the Iraqi government last week detailing how it intended carrying out the agreement was unacceptable.

The US objection means that the agreement, which was meant to allay the suffering visited on the Iraqi population, may be delayed by several weeks or months. British officials would not say whether London concurred with the American assessment.

Speaking of the Iraqi document, the US spokesman at the UN, James Rubin, accused Iraq of "trying to backtrack" on the agreement reached on 20 May and of trying "to turn this humanitarian exception into a partial lifting of sanctions". He added that the plan, "contains several provisions that make it clear that Iraq is not serious at this point as far as implementing" the oil-for-food agreement.