- BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq intensified its confrontation with the United
Nations on Sunday, saying it will reject any extension of a U.N.-monitored
food program and will require the monitors to leave.
- Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh
did not say when Baghdad would ask the U.N. staff to depart. However, the
latest phase of the U.N.-approved oil-for-food deal doesn't expire until
the end of April.
- The tough talk came a day after Iraq
said it would fire on U.S. and British warplanes patrolling skies over
northern and southern Iraq. It also came shortly before a meeting of Arab
lawmakers in Amman, Jordan, condemned recent U.S.-British airstrikes on
Iraq as "unjust aggression."
- The legislators from 16 Arab nations
also called on their governments to work on the lifting of the U.N. trade
embargo that has crippled the country's economy. Kuwait did not participate
in the meeting.
- The oil-for-food program brings crucial
supplies such as flour, lentils, rice, sugar and medicine to families struggling
under U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, sparking
the Persian Gulf War. Though Iraq desperately needs the goods, it long
has feared the program makes it easier for the world to allow the sanctions
- "Iraq refuses the continuation of
this project and demands the lifting of sanctions," Saleh said. "This
means the ouster of U.N. teams which supervise it."
- About 400 U.N. workers monitor the oil-for-food
program to ensure that the Iraqi government does not divert any of the
money for aid and use it for its own purposes.
- The deal began in 1996, and generally
is extended every six months. The latest six month phase allows Iraq to
sell $5.2 billion in oil to buy needed supplies. About 3% of that money
is used to pay the humanitarian aid monitors, the expenses needed to administer
the program and to fund the work of weapons inspectors in Iraq. Another
30% goes to compensate victims of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the
subsequent Gulf War.
- "Iraq is bearing huge expenses which
it pays to these (U.N.) personnel and they do nothing apart from verifying
that the imports have reached Iraqi ports," Saleh said in an interview
with Associated Press Television News.
- The U.N. embargo, imposed after Iraq's
invasion of Kuwait, cannot be lifted until the weapons inspectors verify
that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.
- The United States and Britain began four
days of punishing airstrikes on Dec. 16 after the weapons inspectors released
a report saying that Baghdad was blocking their work. Iraq has said it
will not allow the U.N. arms monitors to resume their work.
- Although Egypt participated in the Amman
meeting condemning the airstrikes, a Cairo newspaper reported that Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak blamed Saddam Hussein for provoking them.
- Monday's edition of Al-Gomhuriya newspaper
quoted Mubarak as saying the ruling regime "is the reason for all
the problems ... and Egypt naturally does not support this regime."
- Iraqi officials also have said that anti-aircraft
gunners were prepared to open fire on U.S. and British warplanes patrolling
no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. "Violating Iraqi airspace
is an aggression," Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told APTN on
- "The so-called farce of no-fly zones
must end," he said. "The so-called no-fly zones only exist in
the British and American imagination."
- Iraq has never recognized the zones and
occasionally has confronted aircraft flying in the areas.
- The United States and Britain have said
they will continue to enforce the zones, and National Security Council
spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington that U.S. pilots can "act
in self-defense if they feel threatened."
- The United States, Britain and France
set up the no-fly zones in 1991-92 to halt air attacks against Kurdish
rebels in the north and Shiite Muslim rebels in the south.