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U.N. votes to resume oil-for-food

Many Iraqis rely on aid.
Many Iraqis rely on aid.

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council Friday unanimously adopted a resolution to restart Iraq's oil-for-food program after seven days of haggling.

At the same time, the United Nations appealed to the international community to donate up to $2.2 billion "to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq."

The draft resolution on restarting the oil-for-food program was sponsored by all 15 Security Council members except Syria.

The program was halted March 17 as war in Iraq loomed. But the fact that more than 60 percent of Iraqis depend on it makes its reinstatement essential, the draft said.

"Their situation is likely to become desperate as distribution systems are disrupted and the availability of rations is seriously impaired," a U.N. statement said.

The $2.2 billion would be enough to meet Iraqis' humanitarian needs through August, the statement said. If some of that can be provided by the oil-for-food program, the amount needed from donors would be reduced.

Resolution 1472 gives Secretary-General Kofi Annan the power for 45 days to make any necessary adjustments to the program.

But even if the oil-for-food program resumes quickly, extra money would still be needed, the statement added. The proposed aid affects that which is currently in the pipeline.

"It is painfully evident that the international community must act immediately to prepare for all eventualities and in order to avert disaster," it said.

Iraq's current food supplies will be exhausted in four to five weeks, after which there will be a need to provide food to the Iraqis for at least three months, the statement said.

Food is not the only thing in short supply. So too are medical provisions, potable water and housing, the statement said.

"The civilian population of Iraq has no part in this conflict and must be protected from its consequences at all costs," the draft said.

"The international community must respond immediately and effectively to save lives, mitigate suffering and, even in the darkest moments of war, to rescue something for a peaceful future."

U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday urged the United Nations to resume the program immediately.

John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said: "The United States will facilitate the necessary coordination on the ground in Iraq between coalition authorities and the United Nations and associated relief agency staff as oil-for-food supplies and other humanitarian assistance arrive and are distributed as circumstances on the ground permit."

Ian Steele, a spokesman for the program, said there is little to impede its quick resumption -- 6.7 million barrels of Iraqi oil from the program are in storage at the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Oil is continuing to flow from a 600-mile pipeline that runs from oil fields in Kirkuk in northern Iraq to Ceyhan, said George Baraneck, a Washington-based energy analyst who tracks the market for oil companies.

But Syria's ambassador Mikhail Wehbe said the vote was not an endorsement of the U.S.-led war.

"Our vote should in no way be construed as accepting the American-British occupation," he said.

"It should be understood as an attempt to continue to work to put an end to that occupation and to withdraw the invading forces from the Republic of Iraq. Our voting should not be also interpreted by any side as granting legitimacy to this invasion."

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sergey Lavrov, said he approved the resolution only reluctantly. "It's something we were forced to do because of the humanitarian sufferings of the Iraqi people caused by the war, which started in violation of the U.N. charter."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.

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