Written Answers. - Iraqi Crisis.

Michael D. Higgins


48 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the circumstances which led to the recent resignation of the United Nations co-ordinator of humanitarian relief in Iraq. [19977/98]

Michael Finucane


76 Mr. Finucane asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the EU General Affairs Council recently considered the situation in Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22057/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 76 together.

The Government is becoming increasingly concerned at the situation in Iraq both regarding the destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction under UN supervision and the welfare of the Iraqi people.

At the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991 the United Nations Security Council, by resolution 687 of April 1991, authorised the setting up of a special UN Commission, UNSCOM, to oversee the disarmament and destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the nuclear, biological and chemical areas. While much work has been done in the nuclear area, marked reluctance by Iraq to comply with the terms of resolution 687, as well as the other resolutions passed by the Security Council, has led to a series of crises between Iraq and the Council. Earlier this year the UN Secretary General, Mr. Koffi Annan, defused the most serious of these situations when he reached agreement with the Iraqi government which resulted in UNSCOM continuing its work subject to certain changes in the modalities of its inspections. Shortly after that the Security Council, in its resolution 1154, stressed that any violation of this agreement or the previous UN resolutions would have the severest consequences for Iraq.

On 5 August, however, Iraq announced that it had decided to suspend co-operation with UNSCOM again. On 9 September, following a series of meetings with Iraqi officials, the Security Council agreed to a further resolution — 1191 — which condemned the latest decision by Iraq. The council called on Iraq to rescind that decision and announced that it would not now conduct the comprehensive review of the sanctions regime established by the UN Security Council which was scheduled for October 1998 until that decision was formally rescinded.
However, the council continued to work on the terms of reference for such a review and reached agreement on these terms last week. Nevertheless, on 31 October, the Iraqi National Revolutionary Council announced that it was ending all co-operation with UNSCOM with immediate effect and made it clear that it expected all UNSCOM personnel to leave Iraq. The Security Council met the same day and issued a statement which declared that Iraq's decision was a flagrant violation of the resolutions of the Security Council and the February agreement with the UN Secretary General. It demanded that Iraq rescind its latest decision and resume immediate, complete and unconditional co-operation with UNSCOM.
The Government's position on this matter is quite clear. We fully support the Security Council in demanding full compliance by the Government of Iraq with the terms of its resolutions and we call on them to reconsider their position. Their compliance with those resolutions will make it possible for the entire issue of sanctions against Iraq to be addressed.
It is quite clear that these sanctions are having a very serious effect on the welfare of the Iraqi people and in particular of Iraqi women and children. According to figures supplied by UNICEF infant mortality rates have increased from 61 to 92 per 1,000 live births in the period 1990 to 1996. Statistics relating to other health issues such as nutritional levels reveal similar shocking situations.
The international community has demonstrated its concern at this situation. In 1995 the UN Security Council passed resolution 986 initiating a food for aid programme under which Iraq was permitted to export certain qualities of oil and to use the income so earned to pay for food and medical supplies. These supplies were to be distributed under UN supervision. In February of this year the Council doubled the value of the oil which Iraq was permitted to export — to $5.2 billion every six months.
In a report to the Security Council in September, the UN Secretary-General estimated the oil revenues for the current phase to be approximately $2.86 billion, providing $1.79 billion for the humanitarian programme. With a current higher level of production and recent stability in the price of oil, the United Nations officials advised that the revenue expected during the current 180 day period from 30 May to 25 November could be around £3.3 billion. This would provide $2.178 billion for the humanitarian programme. This is still one billion dollars less than needed to fund fully the enhanced distribution plan approved by the Secretary-General last May and shows that much work still remains to be done.
While Ireland is not currently a member of the Security Council, I have made our serious concern known to those of our EU partners who are members of that body. I will continue to press for the alleviation of the plight of the Iraqi people.
The situation in Iraq is monitored on an ongoing basis in the framework of the EU's common foreign and security policy. However, the General Affairs Council has not considered the issue recently pending the outcome of the developments in the Security Council which I have described.
I have noted the media reports regarding the resignation of the United Nations Co-ordinator of Humanitarian Relief in Iraq. However, it would not be proper for me to comment on the alleged reasons for the resignation of any official of the United National Organisation which is a matter between the person concerned and his or her superiors.