Iraq: Security Council adopts adjustments to UN's Oil-for-Food programme

28 March 2003 – The Security Council today unanimously approved a resolution adjusting the suspended Oil-for-Food programme to give United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan more authority to administer the operation for the next 45 days.

The programme, which allows Baghdad to use part of its oil revenues for food and medicine and is the sole source of sustenance for 60 per cent of the country's 27.1 million people, was temporarily halted on 17 March after the Secretary-General ordered the withdrawal of all UN personnel from Iraq.

Today's resolution authorizes the Secretary-General to carry out a variety of tasks, such as reassessing the contracts that have been approved, and covers technical issues such as providing alternative locations for the delivery of supplies. Mr. Annan was also given the power to negotiate new contracts for essential medical items.

The resolution, which is subject to further renewal after 45 days, also expresses the Council's readiness "as a second step" to authorize the Secretary-General to perform additional functions with the necessary coordination as soon as the situation permits, as activities on the programme in Iraq resume.

Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, which chairs the Council committee that oversees the Oil-for-Food programme, expressed satisfaction that the Council had been able to adopt the resolution unanimously.

Speaking to reporters shortly after the Council vote, Ambassador Pleuger said it was a "good day" for the long-suffering people of Iraq, but it was perhaps an equally good day for Council members, who had, after days of complicated negotiations, "found the way back to their unity of purpose," ensuring that people in desperate need received the necessary humanitarian assistance.

The resolution not only made clear the wartime responsibility of occupying powers, it also made an appeal to the international community and global humanitarian agencies to do what they can to relieve the plight of Iraqi people, Mr. Pleuger said. Now that the war had broken out - and even when hostilities ended - the people of Iraq would need that help more than ever, he added.

Ambassador Pleuger also confirmed, in response to a reporter's question, that the new resolution did not give the Secretary-General any power over future oil sales to fund new activities. He added, however, that the new text had a timeline of 45 days, which was an "ambitious goal" to get what humanitarian goods that were already in the pipeline to the people of Iraq.

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