Annan proposes doubling amount of oil Iraq can sell

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended Monday that the Security Council double the amount of oil Iraq is allowed to sell. The United States indicated it would go along with an increase.
But Iraq’s U.N. ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, said Baghdad may raise its own objections to parts of the program. He declined to elaborate.
In a report to the 15-member council, Annan proposed Iraq be permitted to sell $5.2 billion of oil every six months. The current six-month ceiling is $2.14 billion.
Iraq has been barred from unrestricted oil sales since August 1990, when the council imposed sweeping sanctions to punish Baghdad for invading Kuwait. After a U.S.-led coalition drove Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the council decided to maintain the sanctions until Iraq destroyed its weapons of mass destruction.
Sanctions were relaxed in December 1996 to allow limited exports to buy food and medicine for Iraq’s 22 million people, as well as pay reparations to Gulf War victims and finance U.N. weapons monitoring.
Annan said that since the oil-for-food program went into effect, “it has become increasingly apparent” that the $2 billion ceiling “is inadequate to prevent further deterioration in humanitarian conditions” in Iraq.
But a U.S. diplomat in New York, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated the United States may raise questions about certain details of Annan’s proposal.
Of the $2 billion worth of oil Iraq now sells every six months, about $1.32 billion goes for purchasing humanitarian supplies. Annan’s proposal would add $2.1 billion in humanitarian supplies with the rest going to reparations and weapons inspections.
About $1 billion would be used to make emergency repairs to Iraq’s infrastructure, which was damaged in the Gulf War.
The United States and Britain, Iraq’s strongest critics on the council, have endorsed changes in the oil-for-food program in hopes of staving off pressure to lift the embargo entirely.
Annan’s recommendation comes as the United States is considering military action to force Iraq to comply with U.N. orders to grant weapons inspectors unrestricted access to all suspected weapons sites.