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BBC Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel
"The Russian government is distancing itself from the whole affair"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 03:31 GMT
Gulf sanction busting patrols boost

Volgoneft 147 The Russian tanker is being unloaded in Oman

Efforts to prevent illegal oil exports from Iraq are to be stepped up after a Russian tanker was stopped by US patrols in the Gulf.

US Defence Secretary William Cohen said intercept operations are to be increased after a perceived rise in illegal operations, possibly due to the rising price of oil.

The announcement came as a Russian tanker, the Volgoneft-147, was being unloaded in Oman.

Washington says the ship was carrying with Iraqi oil and had an Iraqi naval officer on board.

Mr Cohen said that the oil found on board the Vologoneft-147 would be sold to help meet the costs of enforcing the oil embargo.

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The Americans say there is no evidence the Russian government has sanctioned illegal oil sales.

And the Russian authorities, which initially insisted the oil came from Iran, are now distancing themselves from the affair by saying it is a matter for the tanker's owner.

Mr Cohen said: "We are intensifying the interception operations. We and the United Nations want to maintain a containment policy to make sure that we intercept as many illegal operations as we can."

The US navy-led interception force is policing the Gulf to prevent the smuggling in and out of Iraq of goods banned under UN sanctions imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Iraq is allowed to sell oil worth $5.26bn every six months under UN supervision to buy food and medicine.

Russia insists it is complying in full with the sanctions, but has expressed growing dissatisfaction with a lack of progress in easing or lifting the blockade.

Iraq earlier accused the US of piracy for seizing the Russian tanker.

The newspaper of the ruling Baath party said: "This action reflects the level of contempt the United States has for the interests of other countries.


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See also:
06 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Tanker 'smuggling' Iraqi oil
04 Feb 00 |  Middle East
US diverts Russian tanker to Oman
03 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Russia demands tanker release
10 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Oil to flow after UN deal
16 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Oil-for-food deal working 'efficiently'

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