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U.N. extends Iraq's oil-for-food plan

Diplomats: Short extension signals war plans

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution Monday that extends the oil-for-food program with Iraq until December 4.

The 7-year-old program, which allows Baghdad to buy humanitarian goods such as food and medicine by using oil revenues placed in a U.N. escrow account, had been scheduled to expire at midnight Monday.

The program was established to ease the impact of the U.N. sanctions imposed in August 1990 after Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait.

The latest extension was granted to give diplomats time debate whether to extend the program for six months or only for 90 days.

In the past, six-month extensions have been routine, but the United States is pushing for a three-month extension, said John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He also said Iraq appears to have been using the program to import items that could have military value.

The council vote came the same day that U.N. weapons inspectors arrived in Baghdad after a four-year absence. The new team of inspectors came with a new U.N. mandate that threatens war if Iraq fails to cooperate. (Full story)

Council diplomats said the push for a 90-day rollover "sends a certain signal" about timing and potential U.S.-led war plans. A U.S. official denied war plans had anything to do with the time frame proposed.

Negroponte told reporters that over the next 90 days the United States wants the United Nations to add to the list of items not allowed as part of the oil-for-food program.

"There were some items, particularly in the goods review list, that we felt did not have a benign or purely civilian or humanitarian purpose," he said.

Negroponte said Iraq has recently tried to import "militarily significant quantities of atropine and atropine injectors that have no legitimate civilian purpose," he said. Such devices "could only be used in a chemical warfare kind of situation."

Iraq has also tried to import devices to jam global positioning equipment and radio-intercept and direction-finding equipment, he said.

"What we've advocated is that there be a prompt review of the goods review list to tighten it up to ensure it is not exploited ... for military purposes under civilian guise."

He added, "We have nothing against the humanitarian program, and once we have reached agreement on a modified goods review list, we would be prepared to see approval of the humanitarian and the oil-for-food programs approved on a normal basis."

The council approved the original list last May to prevent many contracts for humanitarian goods from being blocked in the sanctions committee.

Now, unless the items are on the list they are automatically allowed to enter Iraq.

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