3 December 1999


3 December 1999

Press Release



Resolution 1280 (1999) Adopted by 11-0-3; France, Not Voting, Says Text Not Practicable, Being Used to Apply Pressure

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, the Security Council this afternoon extended the programme of humanitarian assistance to Iraq known as "oil-for-food" for one week, until 11 December. The Council took that action when it adopted resolution 1280 (1999) by a vote of 11 in favour with 3 abstentions (China, Malaysia and Russian Federation.). France did not participate in the vote.

Explaining his decision not to participate in the vote, the representative of France said the resolution could not be implemented. It was being used to bring pressure on the members of the Council for another purpose.

The representative of the Netherlands said that it was highly unusual to not participate in the vote. Non-permanent members of the Council would not do so, as they would be unable to explain their behaviour to the delegations that elected them. His Foreign Minister had suggested before the General Assembly that permanent members of the Council find a means other than the veto to express profoundly negative views. Perhaps refraining from the vote was such a means.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that two weeks ago, his delegation had proposed a draft which addressed the humanitarian concerns but unfortunately, the proposal had not been taken into sufficient account by a number of delegations. Today's resolution was not in keeping with current realities in Iraq and would lead to serious interruptions in the entire humanitarian programme.

The representative of the United States said adoption of the resolution would clear the way for early action by the Council on a full six-month extension of the programme.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Malaysia, Canada, China and Namibia.

The meeting began at 5:14 p.m. and adjourned at 5:47 p.m.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation between Iraq and Kuwait. When it last met on this subject's on 19 November, the Council extended the programme of humanitarian assistance to Iraq known as "oil for food" until 4 December, on resolution 1275 (1999). The programme allows Iraq to sell oil to purchase humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people.

On 4 October, the Council had authorized States to permit the import of petroleum and petroleum products originating in Iraq up to an additional sum of $3.04 billion for the 180-day period constituting phase VI, which began on 25 May. The amount of that increase was equivalent to the total shortfall of revenue authorized but not generated in earlier phases of the programme, under resolutions 1210 (1998) and 1153 (1998). Prior to the increase, Iraq was authorized to export oil up to a value of $5.26 billion within a 180-day period.

The Council had before it a report of the Security Council Committee established by resolution 661 (1990) concerning the situation between Iraq and Kuwait. According to the report, which is contained in a letter dated 17 November from the Chairman of the Committee (document S/1999/1177), the export of petroleum has proceeded smoothly since the beginning of phase VI of the programme, with excellent cooperation among the oil overseer, the independent inspection agents (Saybolt Nederland BV), the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization and the national oil purchasers.

The report states that the Committee continued to attach high priority to the work of processing contracts for the supply of humanitarian goods to Iraq. As at 10 November, the Secretariat had received 1,232 applications under phase V for exports of humanitarian supplies to Iraq. Of that total, 1,104 applications were circulated to Committee members for action, of which 892 were found eligible for payment under the Iraq Account.

During the same period of time, the Secretariat received 817 applications under phase VI for export of humanitarian goods to Iraq, 607 of which were circulated to Committee members. Of those sent to the Committee, 443 have been found eligible for payment. Members of the Committee will continue the practice of keeping under review those humanitarian contracts that have been placed on hold. The work of goods-arrival confirmation by the United Nations independent agents (Cotecna) has continued and the Iraqi authorities have accorded the agents full cooperation.

The report goes on to say that the Committee has, on a number of occasions, discussed using up to $300 million from the escrow account to supply oil spare parts. It made continuous efforts to expedite the approval process for contracts for sending oil spare parts and equipment to Iraq in accordance within existing procedures. During the period covered by the present report, the Secretariat has received 206 new applications valued at $124 million to export oil spare parts and equipment to Iraq and had circulated 174 applications to the members of the Committee for consideration. A total of 126 applications worth $73.2 million have been approved during this period.

From the beginning of the process to 10 November, the number of applications received by the Committee to ship oil spare parts and equipment to Iraq had reached a total of 1,311, with a value of $682.1 million. Of those, 1,108 had have been circulated to the members of the Committee for consideration, three were being reviewed by customs experts awaiting amendments to the distribution plan, 88 had been returned to the applicant missions for clarification and 45 had been declared null and void. Out of the total of 1,108 applications, 783 -- with a total value of $396.5 million -- have been approved. Placed on a hold were 309 applications, valued at $160.5 million. And 16 applications were pending under the "no-objection" procedure. As at 10 November, 385 such shipments worth $152,609,785 had arrived in Iraq, in full or in part.

Also before the Council is the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the humanitarian programme in Iraq (document S/1999/1162 and Corr.1). The report provides information on the distribution of humanitarian supplies throughout Iraq, from 21 May through 31 October. (For further details, see Press Release SC/6757 of 19 November.

Draft Resolution

Also before the Council is a draft resolution sponsored by the United States (document S/1999/1215) which reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Recalling its resolutions 1242 (1999) of 21 May 1999, 1266 (1999) of 4 October 1999 and 1275 (1999) of 19 November 1999,

"Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

"1. Decides to extend the period referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 8 of resolution 1242 (1999) and in paragraph 1 of resolution 1266 (1999) until 11 December 1999;

"2. Decides to remain seized of the matter".


ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said the Council had regularly renewed the resolution 986 (1997) known as "oil for food", for six-month periods from 1997. That was the time period required for petroleum sales to take place. The text of the draft resolution now before the Council was incapable of being implemented. Rather, it was being used for another reason: to bring pressure on the members for another purpose. Was it conceivable that the Council should take a position on a text that could not be implemented in practice? , he asked. Was it conceivable to vote on a text whose reasons were not the apparent purpose?

There was only one rational position to take, he declared, and that was to not participate in the vote.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said his delegation had voted (on 19 November) in favour of resolution 1275 (1999), extending the oil-for-food programme for two weeks, on the understanding that there would be no linkage between that text and the omnibus resolution which remained under discussion. Assurances had been provided that there was no attempt to establish a linkage, and that the two processes were independent. The president should consider bringing the omnibus resolution to the Council as soon as possible, so the entire membership could consider it and make recommendations to their Governments.

The current text clearly established a linkage, he said. The one-week timeframe was based on three assumptions. First was that the discussions on the omnibus resolution on Iraq would lead to agreement within a week. His delegation would welcome that step. The second assumption was that once there was agreement among the permanent members, the Council would immediately act on that text. However, his delegation could not share that assumption. His delegation would need to convey the outcome of the permanent members’ agreement for in-depth consideration, and that would require time. If the five permanent members had taken five months to hammer out agreement, surely the ten non-permanent members could expect the courtesy of being given some time to consider a complex proposal. The third assumption was that once the Council reached agreement on the omnibus resolution, it could be implemented immediately. But that was not realistic.

For those reasons, the one-week extension was an arbitrary timeframe, he said. Its adoption would create uncertainty and unpredictability to the oil-for- food programme and technical difficulties. The omnibus resolution should be comprehensive regarding a sanctions-lifting plan. Any consideration of the Iraq sanctions regime should not be forced or hurried, if the twin goals were to be achieved: meeting humanitarian needs and ensuring Iraq compliance on the destruction of weapons of mass destruction. His delegation supported a six-month extension. The one-week extension would not serve any purpose beyond placing pressure on permanent members. For those reasons, his delegation could not support the draft. If it were not for the grave humanitarian considerations it involved, his delegation would vote against the draft. As it stood, Malaysia would abstain.

The Council then voted on the text, approving it as Security Council resolution 1280 (1999), by a vote of 11 in favour to none against, with three abstentions (China, Malaysia, and Russian Federation). France did not vote.

PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said his country had a deep and enduring interest in the welfare of Iraqi citizens living under the regime of Saddam Hussein. The United States had taken a leading role in shaping the oil-for-food programme, which was the largest humanitarian assistance effort in United Nations history, and had significantly improved living conditions for the civilian population throughout Iraq. Despite the Iraqi Government’s unjustified recent decision to curtail authorized oil production and exports, large quantities of humanitarian supplies continued to arrive on a daily basis.

There had been no disruption of humanitarian assistance under the oil-for- food programme, and it was of utmost importance that the programme continue without disruption. For that reason, the United States applauded the Council’s action today to extend phase VI of the programme for seven days. Adopting the resolution would clear the way for action on a full six-month extension of the programme one week from now. That resolution would represent the culmination of many months of work by the Council, and must be in place before attention was turned to authorizing a full phase VII of oil-for-food.

He called upon the Government of Iraq to cease the “cynical posturing” of the past two weeks, and resume authorized oil production and exports without delay. It should cooperate fully with the programme during the coming week and in the future. The oil-for-food programme was a temporary measure. It had not been intended to usurp the primary responsibility for meeting civilian needs in Iraq, which continued to reside with the Government of that country. The United Nations had been compelled to take that temporary measure because of the blatant disregard which the Iraqi regime had demonstrated for the well-being of the Iraqi people. The United States would continue to support the uninterrupted continuation of the programme as long as it remained necessary for the international community to address urgent civilian needs which the Iraqi Government chose to ignore.

GENNADI GATILOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation had repeatedly emphasized that the serious humanitarian crisis in Iraq urgently needed measures to relieve the situation. The humanitarian programme was not in keeping with the broad scale tasks it was called on to carry out. The situation was further aggravated by significant blocking of contracts in the Committee.

To meet the urgent need to correct the situation, he said, the Russian Federation two weeks ago had proposed a draft that would reflect the recommendations of the Secretary-General and the conclusions of the Amorim panel. It included the removal of the oil ceiling, an increase in quotas for oil spare parts and a solution to the problem of air transport contracts. Unfortunately, the proposal had not been taken into sufficient account by number of delegations. Today's resolution was not in keeping with current realities in Iraq. It would lead to serious interruptions in the entire humanitarian programme. The authors of the resolution would not take into account France's proposal, that would have allowed the humanitarian programme to continue to work.

He said the resolution did not link priority humanitarian issues with continued work on a comprehensive resolution on Iraq, and it did not determine a timetable for a comprehensive resolution on Iraq. The Council still did not agree on the substance of the remaining problems. The attempt to impose time limits was inappropriate.

MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) said he would vote in favour of the draft resolution. Although he would have preferred to adopt a straight 180-day “rollover” into phase VII, he was able to support the seven-day extension to allow an extra week for negotiation among the permanent members on a comprehensive resolution.

He said the temporary technical rollovers could not continue indefinitely. If one week was not sufficient, he hoped serious consideration would be given to a 180-day rollover the next time. He urged the permanent members to use the extra week to achieve progress that would allow the comprehensive resolution to finally be brought back to the Council for consideration and action.

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that under normal circumstances, his delegation would support the rollover for 180 days, but these were not normal circumstances. His delegation had accepted the turning over of developing consensus on the omnibus draft to the permanent five about half a year ago. Now they were under pressure from the elected members, and rightly so. The one-week extension maintained that pressure, while a longer extension would remove it. The permanent five should interpret the signal correctly and bring the comprehensive resolution to the Council before 11 December. Much had been said regarding permanent and non-permanent members, to which he would not add today. However, he did want to state that in his view an elected member could not afford not to participate in the vote on such an important issue as oil-for-food. It would never be able to explain such behaviour to the delegations that elected them.

QIN HUASUN (China) said the oil-for-food programme had played a considerable role in easing humanitarian difficulties. But the programme itself still had inadequacies and should be adjusted in a timely fashion, in light of realities. As for the length of the extension, that should depend on the humanitarian needs of civilians in Iraq, and on how the programme could be implemented more smoothly. While there might be different political positions on Iraq, meeting the humanitarian needs of the people of Iraq should not be used to exert political pressure.

Clearly, the draft today was not intended to meet those needs, or enhance the efficiency of the programme, he said. Instead, its purpose was to force the permanent members to conclude their consultations on the omnibus resolution within week. That was surprising. The Council’s stalemate had lasted almost a year; that too was surprising, and disappointing. But to attribute such slow progress solely to the permanent five was inappropriate. The military strike last December was the main cause for suspending the programme in Iraq. The question was how to break the deadlock. Those countries which had launched the military strike should display flexibility. China hoped to see an early conclusion of consultations among the permanent members, and hoped also that the Council would adopt a comprehensive resolution as soon as possible. The one-week extension did not improve the humanitarian situation, and it would not help consultations.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the oil-for-food programme, although limited, played a major role in alleviating the plight of the Iraqi people and it was important to see that it was not disrupted. On the other hand it was frustrating that the Council could not resolve its differences. It now appeared that the continued existence of the oil-for-food programme was threatened by the same political differences which threatened it previously. He urged the permanent five to resolve their differences. He would have preferred a six-month extension, but had voted on the resolution today in the hope that it would lead to agreement.

Mr. DEJAMMET (France) said that to avoid the dilemma of not participating in the vote, a resolution such as that just passed by the Council should not have been put to the vote.

Mr. VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that non-participation in the vote was extremely rare, and few non-permanent members had ever resorted to that extraordinary measure. He recalled that his Foreign Minister, in the General Assembly, had said it might be useful to start looking for a way for permanent members to express profoundly negative attitudes without using the veto. He was hoping that was the new element that had been introduced today.

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For information media. Not an official record.