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IRAQ will resume oil exports, ambassador says

Updated:

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Iraq has accepted the terms of a new Security Council resolution extending the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq and will resume its oil exports shortly, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday.

Iraq halted exports on June 4 to protest a U.S.-British proposal to overhaul sanctions imposed on the oil-rich nation after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

``Everything will be normalized,'' Iraqi ambassador Mohammed al-Douri said before he was to sign a memorandum of understanding with the U.N. Secretariat on extending the oil-for-food program for an additional five months.

Al-Douri indicated that it was only a technical matter before Iraq restores its oil exports to a normal level of about 2 million barrels a day.

Facing a veto by Russia _ Iraq's key ally on the Security Council _ Britain and the United States dropped their sanctions proposal on Tuesday and instead supported a simple extension of the oil-for-food program, something Baghdad had demanded before it would restart its oil exports.

Created in 1996 as an exemption to sanctions against Iraq, the program allows Iraq to export unlimited amounts of oil to purchase food, medicine and other essentials and to pay war reparations.

On Tuesday, when the Security Council approved the extension, it had been unclear whether Iraq would accept it because the extension included a mild reference to the U.S.-British proposal.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi leadership has remained silent on the oil-for-food program extension and has not given an indication of when exports might resume.

Immediately following the vote, al-Douri said Iraq needed time to study the resolution before making a decision.

Washington and London said they would use the next five months to press for Russian support of their sanctions plan, which aims to ease the flow of civilian goods while tightening an 11-year-old arms embargo and plugging up oil smuggling routes.

But Moscow _ which is owed billions of dollars by Iraq _ has its own rival resolution aimed at hastening an end to sanctions by calling for a long-term monitoring program rather than intrusive inspections of Iraq's weapons program.

Under Security Council resolutions, however, sanctions cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that Iraq has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles.

Weapons inspectors left Iraq ahead of U.S.-British airstrikes in December 1998 and Baghdad has barred their return. The Iraqi government maintains that it has eliminated its weapons programs and has demanded the immediate lifting of sanctions.
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