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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 00:34 GMT
Iraq oil-for-food aid extended
Iraqi women say sanctions are harming their children's health

The oil-for-food programme, which allows Iraq to sell oil to buy essential supplies is to be extended for two weeks.

The short extension was agreed as debate continues over developing a new sanctions policy against Baghdad.

Senior officials from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Britain, China, France, and Russia - began the intense negotiations on Tuesday.

Under the current programme, normally renewed every six months, Iraq is allowed to sell $5bn of oil sales to raise funds for buying food and medical supplies approved by the UN.

The UK and US want the current regime maintained.

But Russia and France are keen to see the ceiling on oil sales lifted completely.

The interim resolution is expected to be approved by the 15-member council on Friday, a day before the current six-month phase expires.

More talks

Diplomats told the French AFP news agency that they did not want disputes on the humanitarian programme to interrupt the wider discussions.

The next two weeks would show whether or not the gap could be bridged between Russia and the US on how far Iraq must co-operate with a UN arms inspection mission for sanctions to be suspended, they said.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein froze co-operation in 1998 with the UN arms inspectors, who were charged with finding and removing weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq 'under seige'

The oil-for-food programme was introduced in 1996 to offset the impact of stringent sanctions imposed in 1990 when Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait.

Iraq is allowed to spend about two-thirds of its oil revenues on imports. Most of the remaining third goes to compensate Kuwait.

An Iraqi government spokesman said calls by the US for the unconditional return of UN weapons inspectors was a ploy to keep Baghdad under siege and in chains for eternity.

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See also:
06 Nov 99 |  Middle East
US attacks Iraq aid chief
03 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Iraq dismisses UN sanctions solution
23 Sep 99 |  Middle East
Iraq deal eludes major powers
01 Sep 99 |  Middle East
Iraqi oil for quake victims
18 Aug 99 |  Middle East
Iraq 'exporting baby food'

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