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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Negroponte Announces Renewal of Oil For Food Programme for Iraq

Aired April 24, 2003 - 12:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to the United Nations. The U.S. ambassador, John Negroponte, speaking to reporters about the move to go forward and extend the Oil For Food Programme for Iraq.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMB. TO U.N.: But I can state for you very emphatically that our view is that the sanctions should be lifted, and a way should be found to do that as expeditiously as possible.

QUESTION: Ambassador, what was your response to the Russian proposal put out yesterday that would give the secretary-general full authority, complete authority the Iraqi government had to administer the Oil For Food Programme until a new Iraqi government is formed?

NEGROPONTE: Again, the decision we took today was simply to extend the secretary-general's authority over the Oil For Food Programme until the 3rd of June to coincide with the end of this phase of the Oil For Food Programme.

Our desire and belief is that the sanction program should be brought to an end as quickly as possible, in light of the totally changed circumstances in the country of Iraq. The Iraqi people should have access to their own resources and dispose of them as they see fit. We are no longer talking about the regime of Saddam Hussein, but of an entirely new situation.

So we would favor lifting those sanctions as soon as possible. The modalities of how we get to that point is something we are going to be discussing within the council over the next weeks, and I wouldn't want to comment on any specific proposal that has been made at this time. We're going to be bringing our own ideas to the table in the near future.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE).

NEGROPONTE: Well, we explained in the council today that we have teams on the ground in Iraq that are looking for Commander Speicher, the downed United States pilot who has been missing in action in Iraq since the first Gulf War.

We have also pledged to the country of Kuwait that helping locate Kuwaiti prisoners or their remains is also a very, very high priority for the United States forces in Iraq. And we gave that assurance to the Kuwaiti government at the very highest level. So this is a very important priority for us. QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, could you foresee a situation where sanctions were lifted, but you preserve the framework and structure of the Oil For Food Programme to ensure that goods were still getting to the Iraqi people?

NEGROPONTE: I don't want to speculate about what the architecture might be going forward. This is obviously something that's -- first of all, it's quite complex. Secondly, I think it's something that's got to be sorted out internally within our own government, and then with coalition allies, and then ultimately with the council as a whole.

So there's a process here, and I would ask you to bear with us as we work our way through this.

One last question. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, you know for Iraq to have the sanctions lifted, they have to have certification, they have to satisfy the world community that it no longer supports international terrorism. Yet, you still have them on the list of countries that sponsors terrorism. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to remove them first (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

NEGROPONTE: Right, right. It's a good question, and again, it goes back to the issue that we have a completely changed situation in Iraq today. One is going to have to work through all of these, you might call them legacy issues, in time.

But first -- the first priority is to stabilize the situation in Iraq. We're in that stabilization phase right now, and that's got the highest priority of our government and our armed forces at this time.

Thank you very much.

BLITZER: John Negroponte, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, warmly welcoming the unanimous decision among the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council to extend until June 3rd Iraq's Oil For Food Programme, the humanitarian assistance program that's helped so many Iraqis basically stay alive over the course of these several years.

What the U.S. clearly wants, though, beyond that is a lifting of all of the economic sanctions that were originally imposed against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The U.S. thinking that there's a completely different political situation in Iraq right now. No more Saddam Hussein regime. As a result, no more need for sanctions against Iraq.

There are still resistance coming from some other members of the Security Council, an issue to be resolved.

We're going to continue to follow that development, as well as the development of the missing American prisoner of war, Scott Speicher, the Navy captain you heard the U.N. ambassador suggesting that they are still searching for Scott Speicher. They are also searching for Kuwaiti POWS still missing since the end of the first Persian Gulf War a dozen years ago.

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