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UN Debates Extending Iraq's 'Oil-for-Food' Program - 2001-11-26

The United Nations Security Council has begun what is expected to be a week-long process of deciding on terms for extending the so-called "oil-for-food" program in Iraq.

Some diplomats say the closed-door discussions on the program are likely to be a re-run of late June and early July. At that time, Britain and the United States proposed that sanctions on civilian goods for Iraq be substantially eased, but that controls on weapons be tightened. The plan also included a list of items that Iraq could not import, without specific U.N. approval.

But Iraq strongly opposed the idea, and Russia, a Security Council member with veto power, also found the proposal unacceptable. So, on July third, just hours before the deadline, the council extended the six-year-old "oil-for-food" program until November 30. That program allows Iraq, under U.N. supervision, to export oil to raise money for humanitarian supplies.

Britain and the United States are again pushing their plan to modify the sanctions, and Iraq is again opposing any change. In fact, Iraq says it will abandon the "oil-for-food" program entirely, if significant changes are made. Diplomats say it is possible that some compromise could be reached in which the current "oil-for-food" program is extended, but the council commits itself to work for changes.

On a separate issue, President Bush says Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must allow U.N. weapons inspectors back in the country "to show us he is not developing weapons of mass destruction." Iraq has not allowed the weapons inspectors in the country since 1998.