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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Iraq accepts oil-for-food extension
Iraqis demonstrate in Baghdad
Baghdad calls UN sanctions move "a new harassment" of Iraq
Iraq has accepted an extension of the United Nations oil-for-food programme, but again rejected a new sanctions regime imposed by the Security Council.

Full lifting of the embargo and a halt to the US-British aggression is the solution that would satisfy Iraq' people

Iraqi statement
The UN Security Council unanimously passed the sanctions resolution on Tuesday, which frees up the delivery of civilian goods to Iraq but restricts imports which could be used for military purposes.

The council also voted to extend the oil-for-food programme - which has since 1996 allowed Iraq to use oil revenues to buy basic necessities - for six months from 30 May.

"Iraq will deal with Resolution 1409 adopted by the Security Council with regard to renewing the oil-for-food programme fro six months," Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf said in a statement carried by the official INA news agency.

His statement follows a meeting of Iraq's ruling Revolution Command Council and Baath Party leadership chaired by President Saddam Hussein, during which Baghdad again called for an unconditional lifting of the sanctions.

"Full lifting of the embargo and a halt to the US-British aggression is the solution that would satisfy Iraq's people," a statement issued after the meeting said.

Major shake-up

The new sanctions regime follows a year-long debate within the council over how to overhaul the 12-year-old embargo amid accusations it was harming ordinary civilians.

UN weapons inspectors
Weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998
Under the new scheme, Iraq will be able to import civilian goods without obstruction, while the UN will vet products on a 332-page checklist of "dual-purpose" items.

Currently, contracts for most humanitarian goods must be approved by a UN monitoring committee, which has led to delays and shortages medicine and other goods.

The United States praised the UN decision as a sign the international community wanted to help Iraq sanctions-stricken population.

The White House described the new scheme as "a step forward for the Iraqi people", but said it was now up to Baghdad to improve its citizens' lives.

"Iraq's government has an opportunity to prove that it seeks the same benefits for all its citizens," spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Iraq warning

Baghdad dismissed the new sanctions regime as "a new harassment" of the Iraqi people.

Iraq's UN Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri said the new checklist, which includes items such as computers, crop-sprayers, heavy-duty trucks and cosmetics, "will prevent any development of the Iraqi economy".

Mr al-Douri described the resolution as a front for "American political goals" and called on the UN to end the embargo altogether.

The sanctions can only be lifted after UN weapons inspectors verify Iraq is no longer developing weapons of mass destruction.

UN arms monitors left Iraq in 1998, complaining that Iraq was blocking their investigations.

Iraq has since barred them from returning.

The US has threatened to use force against Iraq if weapons inspectors are not allowed back into the country.

The BBC's Sanjay Dasgupta
"It will deprive the Iraqi government of a propaganda tool"
See also:

15 May 02 | Middle East
Iraq denounces sanctions overhaul
14 May 02 | Middle East
UN relaxes Iraq sanctions
24 Apr 02 | Middle East
Iraq's middle class wiped out
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