Monday, March 31, 2003

Probably the biggest development on the aid front was written up by Felicity Barringer on page B7 of the Saturday, March 29, NY Times : "Security Council Votes to Revive Oil-for-Food Program in Iraq."

"Fifteen hands were raised in unanimous assent today as the Security Council gave Secretary General Kofi Annan temporary authority to provide food and medicine to Iraq through a seven-year-old program that was suspended on the eve of the war.

"The passage of the resolution renewing the oil-for-food program for 45 days under the temporary control of the United Nations represented a brittle truce between Council members after a week of feuding over the scope and intent of the authorization. But it did not resolve the larger question of who would control a postwar Iraqi administration.

Barringer further notes: "The resolution had gone through at least seven separate drafts in the past week, diplomats said, as Russia and Syria argued that the original language effectively condoned the war and anticipated the replacement of Saddam Hussein's government.

"Tonight [March 28] the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the resolution represented a 'technical decision of a temporary character' that 'does not mean the legitimization of the military action' of the American and British forces.

"The resolution had become a battleground in part because the countries that had opposed the resort to military force were suspicious that the resolution on aid would be a Trojan horse setting out the preconditions for an American-led reconstruction period in Iraq." [see Stickfinger below: "Bechtel Top Contender in Bidding Over Iraq"; also Rumsfeld's quote of last Thursday: "I don't believe the United States has the responsibility for reconstruction" of Iraq after the war.]

In addition to "$2.4 billion worth of food, medicine and other emergency essentials," Barringer writes that the program is prepared to deliver "$6.5 billion in other goods." But: "It is unclear how much of that material is positioned close enough to Iraq to be available for use in the next few weeks, or whether the military situation will be secure enough for it to be distributed."

Also, "a group of United Nations agencies, including the World Food Program, opened an appeal for $2.2 billion in emergency relief supplies to cover a six-month period.

"The food program is appealing for $1.3 billion of the total, which, its officials said, could represent the largest aid effort undertaken to date.

The deputy secretary general of the U.N. told a news conference on Friday [again, March 28] that while all of the U.N.'s non-Iraqi workers had been pulled out when the war started, "at least 3,000 Iraqi workers remain to distribute supplies." [quote from the article, not the dep sec gen]

And last, but not least, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte is quoted as saying the U.S. "will facilitate the necessary coordination on the ground in Iraq between coalition authorities and the United Nations and associated relief agency staff as oil-for-food supplies and other humanitarian assistance arrive and are distributed, as circumstances on the ground permit." We'll see about that.