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UN Votes Unanimously to Resume Oil-for-Food Program to Iraq - 2003-03-28


The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to resume shipments of humanitarian aid to Iraq through the oil-for-food program.

The Security Council resolution transfers control over the oil-for-food program to Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a period of 45 days.

Mr. Annan suspended the aid program - the sole source of food for about 60 percent of the Iraqi people - just before the start of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

After the vote, German Ambassador Gunter Plueger said that by adopting the resolution unanimously the council, which is divided on the war, displayed its unified desire to assist the Iraqi people.

"I think this was a good day for the United Nations, a good day for the Security Council, and I hope also a good day for the suffering people of Iraq," Mr. Plueger said.

Security Council discussions about revamping the program had been heated with some opponents of the war, particularly Russia and Syria, saying resuming the program may "legitimize" the conflict.

The final text that the council agreed upon emphasizes that the responsibility for humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people will fall to the United States and Britain if they take control of the country.

The Secretary-General, the United States and Britain had asked the council to ensure that nearly $10 billion in goods already ordered for Iraq, including over $2 billion for food, can enter the country when the situation on the ground permits.

Now, the secretary-general has the authority to review and renegotiate contracts made initially between the Iraqi government and suppliers. The program provided humanitarian relief in exchange for Iraqi oil under sanctions imposed by the United Nations following the first Gulf war.

The White House responded to the passage of the U.N. resolution saying President Bush is pleased with the outcome.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the United States will take a leading role in delivering the humanitarian relief. "For its part, the United States will facilitate the necessary coordination on the ground in Iraq between coalition authorities and the United Nations and associated relief agency staff as oil-for-food supplies and other humanitarian assistance arrive and are distributed as circumstances on the ground permit," he said.

At the same time that the Security Council approved the resolution on the oil-for-food program, the United Nations launched a $2.1 billion appeal for the emergency needs of Iraqis, including additional food supplies, potable water and to restore Iraq's electrical supply and deal with expected refugee issues.

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