The U.N. Security Council has apparently reached an agreement on resuming the oil-for-food program to provide humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people. The U.S. ambassador at one point walked out during the debate.
Germany's Ambassador, Gunter Plueger says that after one week of negotiations, the Security Council is ready to vote on Friday on a resolution to give U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan administrative control of the oil-for-food program.
"It provides for the necessary changes and adjustments in the oil-for-food program in order to enable the secretariat and the secretary-general to keep this program going as soon as the situation on the ground allows," he said. Mr. Plueger added that discussions focused on practical and technical matters.
However, during an open debate, the disagreement apparently centered on political differences among some Security Council members, divided over the war in Iraq.
Permanent member Russia, which has veto power in the council, voiced opposition. Russia's Ambassador Sergey Lavrov told the council that his country opposes what he called attempts to "legitimize the use of force against Iraq or to shift responsibility" for the Iraqi people to the United Nations programs.
"While humanitarian issues are important, there is no more urgent job now than trying to halt the war and returning to the path of a political settlement within the path of the Security Council," he said.
Council member Syria expressed similar opposition to any immediate U.S. and British control of the U.N. program on the ground.
To respond to humanitarian needs, the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair late Thursday, is also expected to announce Friday the largest aid drive the United Nations has ever undertaken, to raise more than $2 billion for Iraq.
However, the oil-for-food program has currently nearly $9 billion of food and supplies has been contracted for delivery to the Iraqi people. Oil-for-food program, the sole source of food for 60 percent of Iraqis, was suspended prior to the fighting.
In the debate, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte appealed to the council to overcome its differences. "Progress on this resolution must accelerate, putting political debating points aside if we are to minimize any interruption of the program," he said. "There would be serious humanitarian implications for the people of Iraq if the council fails to do so."
Mr. Negroponte walked out of the council chamber at one point after the Iraqi ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, accused the U.S.-led coalition of trying to exterminate the Iraqi people.