Washington - New UN Row Over Oil

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 at 11:24AM :

April 28, 2003

Washington Heads for New UN Row Over Control of Oil Wealth
by James Bone in New York

A TRIUMPHANT United States plans to press home its advantage this week by seeking Security Council support for a resolution that effectively would sideline the United Nations in Iraq and transfer the country’s oil wealth to a new Iraqi government.

After a power struggle between the State Department and Pentagon, the White House has endorsed the Pentagon’s hardline view that Washington should push the UN to endorse an interim Iraqi authority and lift sanctions on the country.

The goal is to set up the new Iraqi administration at a conference in Baghdad by June 3, when the present phase of the UN’s Oil-for-Food scheme expires. The interim authority could then take control of Iraq’s oil sales under the supervision of the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Stung by the UN’s refusal to attend early meetings of those who opposed Saddam Hussein’s regime, Washington wants to force the UN Secretary-General to appoint a special representative to play a consultative role in the creation of the authority.

One formula is for a 27-member interim authority made up of nine returning exiles and one representative from each of Iraq’s 18 provinces. “The idea is to create facts on the ground as quickly as possible to enhance our negotiating leverage,” one US official said.

The American proposal, which is expected to surface at the end of the week, is likely to encounter stiff opposition in the 15-nation Security Council, where Russia and France, both veto-bearing permanent members, are insisting on a central UN role.

In an effort to meet Washington halfway, Paris has proposed the immediate suspension of non-military UN sanctions, but continues to insist that UN inspectors must verify that Iraq has been disarmed before the embargo is finally lifted. The United States does not want the UN inspectors to return to Iraq and has told the Security Council that the coalition has assumed responsibility for disarming the country.

Another bone of contention will be control of Iraq’s oil wealth. The US plan is expected to call for the UN’s Oil-for-Food program to be phased out and for the country’s oil money to be transferred into a fund managed by the Iraqi Central Bank and monitored by the World Bank and IMF.

London favors a greater UN role than does Washington, but the Bush Administration is gambling that it can push through its proposals because, after its swift military victory, other Security Council members will not want to restart the protracted diplomatic combat that preceded the war.

Copyright 2003 Times Newspapers Ltd

-- Sadie
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