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Iraq: UN sanctions panel seeks measures in response to illegal oil smuggling

Iraq: UN sanctions panel seeks measures in response to illegal oil smuggling

The United Nations Security Council committee charged with monitoring the sanctions against Iraq has recommended a series of measures to prevent the illegal smuggling of Iraqi oil, according to a document released today at UN Headquarters in New York.

The sanctions panel - known as the "661 Committee" for the resolution which established it - recommended the steps in response to a recent incident in which a large quantity of Iraqi crude had been exported outside the UN oil-for-food programme that allows Baghdad to use internationally monitored revenue from the sale of petroleum to purchase humanitarian relief supplies.

According to the report by the committee's Acting Chairman, Ambassador Valery P. Kuchinsky of Ukraine, the panel examined the circumstances of the incident on 6 November after receiving a letter from the Captain of the turbine tanker Essex.

"The members of the Committee were in agreement that it should take appropriate action to prevent such violations from being committed again," states the report, which reviews a wide range of the panel's activities related to the implementation of the oil-for-food programme during its phase X, from 4 July through 30 November 2001.

The Committee, in part, agreed that the Office of the Iraq Programme, which runs the oil-for-food scheme, should "devise a detailed action plan containing recommendations aimed at improving the monitoring of oil loading at the oil pumping stations." The Office subsequently provided the Committee with proposals for additional operating procedures for crude oil monitoring. The panel also decided to address letters to all States whose companies had been involved in the Essex case, namely the Bahamas, France, the Netherlands, Venezuela, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Some action has already been taken, according to the report, which notes that France had withdrawn the firm Ibex Energy from the list of approved national oil purchasers until French authorities completed investigations of its activities, particularly its alleged involvement in the Essex incident. Subsequently, the Committee contacted the Netherlands to take the same measure with regard to the company Trafigura Beheer B.V.

The Committee was also briefed by the Coordinator of the Multinational Interception Force (MIF), Vice Admiral Charles Moore, who reported a "substantial decrease" in Iraqi oil smuggling through the Iranian territorial waters, but "stressed there were continued oil smuggling activities to destinations in India, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and the Horn of Africa, as well as the unauthorized use of passenger ferries by certain States to carry cargo to and from Iraq."

In addition to providing information on closed-door meetings on smuggling, the report details other aspects of the programme, including legitimate petroleum sales, humanitarian deliveries to Iraq, and matters relating to spare parts for the country's oil industry.