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2003-05-14

UN Security Council to Discuss US Proposal that Would Lift the Sanctions on Iraq and Give US Forces Full Control of Iraq’s Oil

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We talk to the former head of the UN Oil for Food Program, who resigned in protest of the sanctions.

US occupation forces in Iraq will have the authority to shoot looters on sight under a new security policy reported in today’s New York Times.

The new US ruler of Iraq, Paul Bremer, announced the policy at a meeting of senior staff members yesterday.

It is unclear how the occupation forces will inform Iraqis of the new rules of engagement. One of the officials who attended the meeting told the Times occupation forces are: "going to start shooting a few looters so that the word gets around."

The security situation in Baghdad is dire. The Agence France Presse reports there are regular car-jackings, nightly gun battles and organized crime gangs are terrifying residents. Many people in Baghdad, especially women, are afraid to leave their homes and walk the streets, which are littered with piles of refuse and sewage. Many houses are still without running water or electricity. The New York Times reports imposing measures that call for the possible killing of young, unemployed or desperate Iraqis for looting appears to carry a certain level of risk because of the volatile sentiments in the streets.

Paul Bremer also told officials at the meeting yesterday that ranking members of the Baath party will be banned from public service. On the same day, US occupation authorities announced the resignation of Ali Shnan, the physician appointed to lead the rebuilding of Iraq’s Health Ministry. Shnan was apparently forced out after refusing to renounce the Baath Party of former president Saddam Hussein. The US head of the Health Ministry, Stephen Browning, said ranking Baathists will be permitted to take senior positions in Iraq only if they sign US-drafted statements renouncing the Baath Party.

Meanwhile, Iraqi and Jordanian civilians today filed a lawsuit in Belgian court accusing US commander in Iraq Gen. Tommy Franks of war crimes. The lawsuit details around 20 incidents which occurred during the Iraq war, including three cases in which US troops are accused of firing on ambulances. The 2 Jordanian plaintiffs are the widow and the father of Tareq Ayub, a Jordanian correspondent for Arabic TV network Al-Jazeera. Ayub was killed when a US tank fired on Al-Jazeera’s office in Baghdad last month. Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel today attacked the lawsuit as an "abuse" of the law. A spokesman said: "The United States is a democracy and I don’t see why this lawsuit has not been introduced in that country." He said, "Belgium has no pretensions to judge the United States."

Finally, United Nations Security Council members meet today for their first consultations on a controversial draft resolution co-sponsored by the US and Britain. The resolution calls for the immediate lifting of UN sanctions on Iraq. Iraqi oil revenues would be put into a new Iraqi Assistance Fund controlled by US occupation forces. The draft says "the United Nations should play a vital role in providing humanitarian relief, in supporting the reconstruction of Iraq and in helping in the formation of an Iraqi interim authority."

Hans von Sponeck, former head of the UN "oil-for-food" program in Iraq. He resigned in February, 2000 in protest over the continued sanctions on Iraq. Von Sponeck joined the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1968 and served in Ghana and Turkey. He was UNDP Resident Representative in Botswana (1983-1984), United Nations Resident Coordinator in Pakistan (1985-1994) and then in India (1994-1997). Until his resignation, he was UN Chief Humanitarian Officer for Iraq.

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