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Al Jazeera article on Oil for Food
03 des 2003
Al Jazeera interview with Richard Becker on Oil for Food program transfer to US


UN to Hand Over Oil-for-Food Control

By Nurah Tape - Al Jazeera

The humanitarian program was launched in 1996.

UN officials have informed the Security Council that all is in place for
the oil-for-food program for Iraq to be turned over to the US-led
administration in Baghdad at midnight on Friday.

This decision follows Washington's insistence six months ago.

The world body's largest humanitarian program was launched in 1996 to
sell Iraqi oil and use the proceeds to buy food, medicine and other
civilian goods, to offset the impact on ordinary Iraqis of UN sanctions
imposed on Baghdad after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

But the latest move by the UN to hand over control of the program has not
been welcomed by an international activist organization, founded by former
US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark, and critical of US foreign policy and its
occupation of Iraq.

"We think it is outrageous", says Richard Becker, Regional Director of the
International Action Center (IAC), based in San Francisco. "This move, is
in fact, delivering all resources into the hands of those illegally
occupying Iraq."

Becker said that "for resources, that belong to the Iraqi people to be
blatantly delivered into the hands of illegal occupiers, can only emphasize
why occupation must end".

Between December 1996 and the mid-March US-led invasion of Iraq, the
program exported $65 billion of Iraqi oil and purchased $48 billion of
commercial goods for the civilian population, said Benon Sevan, head of the
UN Iraq program.

The rest of the money went to pay for UN weapons inspections, reparations
dating from the first Gulf War and administrative costs.

Poor substitute

Becker, however, describes the program as "a poor substitute for what
should have brought restoration to the Iraqi people".

Over half a million Iraqi children died as a direct result of sanctions

He says the program deprived the Iraqi nation of sovereignty.

"None of the receipt of sale of Iraqi oil throughout the program ever
went to Iraq," says Becker. Instead, "it was delivered to a UN account".

In 1999, Dennis Halliday, the high-profile UN coordinator of the program,
resigned from his post, saying he could no longer administer "an immoral
and illegal" policy.

Halliday, who was nominated for the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, reportedly said
in an interview that "the Oil-for-Food program is something that the UN
should be ashamed of. It is a continuation of the genocide that the
economic embargo has placed on Iraq."

Million deaths

Halliday said children were dying of malnutrition and water-borne diseases.
The US and UK bombed the infrastructure in 1991, destroying power, water
and sewage systems against the Geneva Convention. It was a great crime
against Iraq, he stressed.

He went on to say that "there is a sense that the UN humiliated the Iraqi
people and society. I would use the term genocide to define the use of
sanctions against Iraq... Can you imagine the bitterness from all of this?"

Hans von Sponeck, a former assistant secretary general and the senior UN
official in Iraq who replaced Halliday, also resigned in protest of the UN
role in 2000, along with the head of the World Food Programme.

A 1999 UNICEF report calculated that more than half a million children had
died as a direct result of sanctions.

(Al Jazeera with agency input)

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