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Iraq Accepts Extension of UN Sanctions Oil-For-Food Program - 2002-05-16

Iraq is accepting a six-month extension of sanctions under the United Nations oil-for-food program that allows Iraq to sell oil to the West in return for civilian goods.

Iraq's state-run newspaper criticized the revamped sanctions, calling them "an American attempt to prolong the economic embargo rather than to ease the suffering of the Iraqis."

Still, the Iraqi information minister, Saeed al Sahaf, issued a statement saying Iraq accepts the six-month extension of the sanctions. The statement was issued after a meeting of senior Iraqi officials headed by President Saddam Hussein.

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday adopted sweeping changes to the sanctions that will allow more consumer goods into the country in order to ease the suffering of Iraqi citizens. The United States fully backed the revisions and pushed for their adoption.

Mohammad Kamal, who teaches political science at two Cairo universities, says the Bush administration wants to take away what he calls Saddam Hussein's "rallying cry" that the United States is responsible for suffering in Iraq.

"The American administration wants to tell the Iraqi people that the U.S. is not the problem - it's Saddam Hussein who is the problem. I think, if the U.S. is serious about removing Saddam from power, they want to deprive him from the tools that he uses to mobilize Iraqis behind him and around him," he said.

Mr. Kamal has said the easing of restrictions should help quell Arab anger in the Middle East, where most countries have opposed continued sanctions against Iraq. The U.N. implemented the oil-for-food program six years ago, allowing Iraq to sell oil in return for much needed medical and humanitarian supplies. The list of approved goods was extremely limited.

The U.N. action this week expands the list, although the resolution still bans military supplies and any civilian items that could have a military use.