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Saturday, May 22, 1999 Published at 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK

World: Middle East

Iraq oil-for-food plan extended

Iraq is not alllowed to sell more than $5bn dollars of crude oil

By BBC UN Correspondent Mark Devenport

The UN Security Council has extended by six months the oil-for-food programme which allows Iraq to sell crude oil in exchange for humanitarian supplies.

The vote in favour of extending the oil-for-food programme was passed unanimously, reflecting the concern felt on all sides of the Security Council over the humanitarian situation in Iraq.

But the general approach taken by different members towards Baghdad remains sharply divided.

China and Russia both condemned the United States and Britain over the recent raids by their jets on Iraqi targets in the no-fly zones in the north and south of the country.

[ image: The US and Britain say their planes are targeted by Iraq]
The US and Britain say their planes are targeted by Iraq
Russia claimed the raids were damaging the civilian, oil and industrial infrastructure of Iraq and said the no-fly zones had been created unilaterally in circumvention of the Security Council.

But the British Ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, replied there would be no tension in the zones if Iraq stopped targeting US and British aircraft.

"We do not initiate aggressive action and if we react, we target relevant military facilities only," he said.

"The no-fly zones are necessary in order to limit Iraq's capacity to oppress its own people and in order to monitor its compliance with its obligations under Resolution 688."

UN split over Iraq

The argument over no-fly zones reflects wider divisions over the future of sanctions and the destruction of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons.

France noted the Security Council intended to take a flexible attitude to the oil-for-food programme and would not object if Iraq exceeded the present limit of just over $5bn of oil sales.

But in previous phases the low price of oil meant Iraq did not even approach that limit. That is one reason why all sides are now looking at ways to ease the burden of sanctions on ordinary Iraqi people.

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