Security Council to hold first open debate on Iraq since outbreak of hostilities

25 March 2003

The United Nations Security Council will hold on Wednesday its first open debate on Iraq since hostilities broke out and will also seek to reach a consensus on providing humanitarian assistance to the country since the suspension of the UN Oil-for-Food Programme, which allows Baghdad to use part of its petroleum sales to buy relief supplies.

Announcing the open meeting, which was requested by the Arab League and the Non-Aligned Movement, Guinea’s Ambassador Mamady Traoré, Council President for March, said many speakers were expected to take part in the debate that was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. New York time.

In the morning, Council members are scheduled to discuss adjustments to the Oil-for-Food Programme based on suggestions from Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the work of experts, who, since Saturday, have been seeking ways to enable the UN to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq despite the temporary halt to the programme.

The operation was suspended on 17 March when Mr. Annan ordered the withdrawal of all UN personnel from Iraq, leaving it with no inspectors to monitor the selling of oil and the distribution of food required by the programme in its current form.

Ambassador Traoré said he hoped tomorrow morning's discussion of a draft resolution on continuing humanitarian assistance to Iraq would lead to a consensus.