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Oil For Food Program Improves Life for Average Iraqis - 2001-12-01

A United Nations official says that, after five years of operation in Iraq, the so-called "oil-for-food" program has helped average Iraqis but that much human suffering remains.

Tun Myat, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the U.N. Iraq Program, says that, compared to conditions five years ago, things have improved in Iraq.

"The lot of the average person has improved. There is food, there is medicine and improvement in a number of other areas," he said. " There is at the moment, dare I say it, a construction boom in the housing sector. But there is still a lot of suffering by the people."

Mr. Myat cited the shortage of clean water and poor sanitation as two of the most serious problems facing Iraqis. He said those problems are indicative of the overall deterioration of much of the public infrastructure in Iraq.

The U.N. program allows Iraq to sell oil to raise money for humanitarian supplies. However, the program allows U.N. Security Council members to block specific shipments into Iraq. The United States has frequently blocked shipments of items that it says Iraq could use in weapons production.

On Thursday, the Security Council voted to modify the procedure within six months. Instead of blocking shipments on a case-by-case basis, there will be a list of items that Iraq can not order without special approval from the Council. Iraq will be free to purchase any item not on the list.

Mr. Myat indicated that while the change may bring some help, real improvement in the lives of average Iraqis will come only when the country has a fully functioning economy.

Most analysts say that can happen only when all sanctions against Iraq are lifted. The Security Council is planning to clarify exactly what type of cooperation Iraq must give to U.N. weapons inspectors in order for the sanctions to be lifted. Iraq has not allowed weapons inspectors in the country since 1998.