Russian companies face problems returning to postwar Iraq

The Russian participants in the UN Oil for Food Program claim the lawfulness of their contracts concluded in the period of the program's effect.

Yesterday some foreign media said that the UN position contributed to the negative attitude towards Saddam Hussein's containment. The Oil for Food Program should become a subject for an internal investigation, the Wall Street Journal quoted UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday.

The Journal says that Hussein succeeded in supplying oil to his friends and allies all over the world on favorable conditions and also in receiving advantages from oil sellers and humanitarian aid suppliers.

The Russian companies, which worked in Iraq before the American invasion, say they are unaware of any violations.

For instance, the Zarubezhneft company has no information on any illegal UN actions, so it cannot assess actions by the organizers the Oil for Food Program and its numerous participants, said the spokesman for the Zarubzhneft director general.

Zarubezhneft executed its contracts in a strict correspondence with the UN resolution, the spokesman stressed. "All the contracts, which were concluded with the Iraqi oil ministry and organizations after the winning of international tenders, underwent the obligatory procedure in the UN Security Council's Committee No. 661," he added.

Zarubezhneft is carrying out contracts it signed within the framework of the program, for delivery of all kinds of equipment which were determined as priority ones," the spokesman said.

Another Russian company, Tatneft, which also took part in the Oil for Food Program, said it did not violate the UN sanctions.

"During the entire period of cooperation with Iraq the Tatneft never violated the United Nations' sanctions," said the company's deputy director general Khamit Kavayev.

"The appearance of the information on the unlawful actions of some participants in the program has coincided in time with the Russian companies' efforts to return to the Iraqi market after the end of military operations," he said.

The functioning of the contracts, suspended with the beginning of military actions in Iraq, was resumed after the UN Security Council adopted Resolution No. 1453 on May 22, 2003. According to this resolution, the UN specialized agencies re-considered the expediency of executing contracts for the delivery of goods, which were concluded by the member-companies of the program under Saddam Hussein.

That same resolution of the UN Security Council lifted the sanctions against Iraq, which were imposed 13 years ago and established a six-month time limit for curtailing the Oil for Food Program, which ended on November 21, 2003.

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