Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 13:47 GMT
Annan tells Iraq: Deliver the aid
A near-worthless dinar leaves Iraqis dependent on hand-outs
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says Iraq has distributed less than half the medical supplies it has bought since the start of the oil-for-food programme three years ago.
In his latest report on the programme, Mr Annan says $275m worth of drugs and medical supplies were still in Iraqi warehouses at the end of January.
About $540m worth of supplies have been delivered to Iraq since the programme was launched in 1996. Mr Annan called on the Iraqi government to give the matter its urgent attention.
Baghdad is also said to have submitted contracts for only 260 tons of infant milk, even though the UN has approved deliveries of 1,500 tons, the report said.
Since strict UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990, infant and child mortality rates have increased dramatically.
The report is likely to be seized on by the UK and US governments which have long argued that Iraq uses the humanitarian fallout of UN sanctions for propaganda purposes.
Oil price falls hit Iraq
Under the oil for-food programme, Iraq is allowed to sell just over $5 billion every six months to pay for food and other urgently-needed humanitarian supplies.
From that amount, 30% is diverted to pay for humanitarian supplies to the three northern provinces not governed by Baghdad, and another 17% goes towards paying compensation to victims of the occupation of Kuwait and the costs of Unscom, the weapons inspectors.
But delays in distribution are not the only problem for the oil-for-food programme.
"The most serious issue facing the implementation of the programme at present is the growing shortfall in revenues," Mr Annan said.
The secretary-general also spoke of delays in UN approval of oil industry spare parts imported to Iraq to rebuild Iraq's dilapidated oil infrastructure.
In the past these imports have been put on hold by members of the sanctions committee, particularly the US. Mr Annan welcomed the reduction in the number of new applications that have been put on hold.