UNITED NATIONS -- Iraq asked the Security Council yesterday to ease the United Nations trade embargo by giving Baghdad permission to sell almost $1 billion worth of oil over the next four months to pay for emergency imports of food and other essential humanitarian items.
The Iraqi request was contained in a letter to Austria's U.N. representative, Peter Hohenfellner, who heads the Security Council committee monitoring the economic blockade. It said that Baghdad wanted to raise $942.5 million.
"The situation with regard to food and basic humanitarian needs in Iraq is extremely critical and exceeds the resources available to the Iraqi government and to international humanitarian organizations," the letter said.
In the letter, Iraq's U.N. representative, Abdul Amir al-Anbari, said his country needed to buy 1.24 million tons of wheat over the next four months as well as 240,000 tons of rice, 80,000 tons of cooking oil and 40,000 tons of meat, coffee, soap, razor blades and spare parts for flour mills and bakeries.
U.S. and other diplomats said their reaction to the request was likely to be influenced by how well Baghdad cooperated with the international efforts under way to help the Kurdish refugees in the north of the country as well as with the Security Council's plan for destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
The peace plan the Security Council imposed on Iraq earlier this month allows its sanctions committee to let Iraq sell some oil to pay for essential imports before Baghdad has met all the conditions set for lifting the export ban entirely. But the committee's decision must be unanimous.