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Iraq: Security Council committee places more humanitarian contracts on hold

Iraq: Security Council committee places more humanitarian contracts on hold

Over the past week, the Security Council committee monitoring the sanctions against Iraq had placed more humanitarian contracts on hold than it released, according to the statistics released today by the United Nations office running the oil-for-food programme.

The Office of the Iraq Programme reported that during the week leading up to 11 May, the panel -- known as the "661 committee" for the resolution that established it -- released 24 contracts valued at $42 million. During the same period, it placed another 24 contracts on hold valued at $238.4 million, bringing the total value of held contracts to some $3.7 billion. The sharp increase was largely attributed to a single contract in the electricity sector valued at $147 million.

According to the Office, committee members often cite the lack of technical specifications and potential dual use as reasons for placing a contract on hold. The new "holds" placed this week included contracts for diesel locomotives, FM radio transmitters, water pumps, generators and laboratory equipment. Those released covered the purchase of buses, firefighting equipment, raw materials for the production of various medicines, trailer trucks and excavators.

Under the oil-for-food programme, Baghdad is allowed to export its petroleum and use a portion of the proceeds to purchase humanitarian relief. According to the Office, Iraqi oil exports held steady last week at a rate of some 2.07 million barrels a day, earning Baghdad an estimated €377 million (euros) over the seven-day period.