Mar. 28, 2003. 01:32 PM
Council approves Iraq aid resolution
The resolution gives Secretary-General Kofi Annan control for the next 45 days over the humanitarian side of the U.N. program that uses Iraq's oil revenues for medical supplies and food.
The military situation will determine how quickly the United Nations can return its staff to Iraq to begin distributing the assistance, Annan said today. He pulled U.N. workers out a day before the war began last week.
The program had been providing food to 60 per cent of Iraq's 22 million people.
The Security Council agreed on the wording of the draft resolution Thursday night after a week of acrimonious negotiations in the council.
Gunter Pleuger, Germany's U.N. ambassador who chaired the negotiations, called the program "the biggest humanitarian assistance program in the history of the U.N.," and said quick implementation was crucial to preventing a humanitarian disaster.
After the vote, he thanked members for "the spirit of compromise" that led to the resolution being adopted unanimously.
"This is a signal to the people that they are not forgotten," Pleuger said. The Security Council has been bitterly divided over the war, which the United States launched with Britain and Spain, to disarm Iraq militarily. France, Russia, Germany and China opposed the rush to military action, arguing that Iraq could be disarmed peacefully through strengthened UN weapons inspections.
The German ambassador said approval of the resolution showed "the unity of purpose" among council members to provide the people of Iraq with desperately needed humanitarian goods.
"Today's vote will translate into concrete results on the ground," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.
"The people of Iraq have suffered too long" under a regime not of their choosing, he said.
France's U.N. Ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said that "on the basis of this humanitarian text, the Security Council has recovered its unity, and that is an important result as well."
But despite the council's ability to join together to support humanitarian aid for Iraq, its members remain divided over the war - and contentious negotiations are expected over future resolutions dealing with the oil-for-food program when the oil issues are addressed, as well as expected resolutions on administration and reconstruction of postwar Iraq.
More than 80 nations spoke Wednesday and Thursday at the first open council meeting since U.S. and British forces launched their campaign in Iraq last week. About a dozen countries not on the council supported the U.S. position, but the vast majority opposed the war and expressed regret Iraq's disarmament could not be achieved peacefully.
In a dramatic end to a two-day debate on the war, Negroponte walked out of the council Thursday after Iraq's envoy accused Washington of planning the military assault for years.
After he left, Iraq's Mohammed Al-Douri also accused the United States and allies Britain and Australia of trying to exterminate the Iraqi people.
"I did sit through quite a long part of what he had to say, but I think that I'd heard enough," Negroponte said outside the council chamber, adding that he rejected the allegations.
The oil-for-food program has allowed Iraq to sell unlimited quantities of oil provided the money goes mainly to buying food, medicine and other humanitarian goods. The oil proceeds are deposited in a UN-controlled escrow account.
Russia and Syria had insisted that the oil-for-food resolution should not legitimize the war, presuppose a change in Iraq's leadership or give the United States control over the escrow account, which contains billions of dollars. Russia was also concerned about Iraqi sovereignty over oil resources.
The resolution reaffirms "the respect for the right of the people of Iraq to determine their own political future and to control their own natural resources."
The resolution notes that "the occupying power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population."
The oil-for-food program was adopted in 1995 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions imposed after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait in 1990.
The United Nations has been running the program in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, but Saddam Hussein's government has been in charge in central and southern Iraq
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