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UN confirms suspension of Iraqi oil exports

UN confirms suspension of Iraqi oil exports

The United Nations today confirmed that Baghdad had suspended the export of its petroleum, which is sold to purchase humanitarian relief under the UN's "oil-for-food" programme.

"We can confirm that loadings at Ceyhan, Turkey have stopped," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York. He added that the loading of two vessels at Mina al-Bakr was continuing because "these vessels had begun loading operations before the halt came into effect."

Meanwhile, the President of the Security Council said on Monday he intended to discuss the issue with the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN "today or tomorrow."

Council President Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury of Bangladesh told a press briefing that "any development in that area which stops the supply of oil, which can cause humanitarian hardship, would cause concern to the Council."

"In any case, this is a major area of involvement for the Security Council and we would therefore like to be engaged in this matter in a manner that helps not only the Council's work but also the people in Iraq," he stressed.

For his part, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters that the decision to stop exporting petroleum was in the hands of the Baghdad leadership. "Iraq is a sovereign State," he said. "If it decides to turn off the oil, we can bring pressure to bear on them to change their position. Whether they would change it or not, only time will tell."