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Public Statements

Federal News Service - Hearing of the House International Relations Committee on the United Nations Oil-For-Food Program

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service April 28, 2004 Wednesday
Copyright 2004 The Federal News Service, Inc.
Federal News Service

April 28, 2004 Wednesday

HEADLINE: PANEL I OF A HEARING OF THE HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE

SUBJECT: THE UNITED NATIONS OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM

CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE HENRY HYDE (R-IL)

WITNESSES: HOWARD ZIAD, U.N. REPRESENTATIVE, KURDISTAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT; MICHAEL SOUSSAN, FORMER PROGRAM COORDINATOR, U.N. OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM; DANIELLE PLETKA, VICE PRESIDENT, FOREIGN AND DEFENSE POLICY STUDIES, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE; CLAUDIA ROSETT, SENIOR FELLOW, THE FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES; AND JOHN G. RUGGIE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY

LOCATION: 2172 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

BODY:

REP. HYDE: The committee will come to order. (Sounds gavel.) The chair many times has announcements to make, some of which are perfunctory, some of which are enormously substantive, and I have one of the latter kind to make.

One of our members who is not here today-and you'll understand why-Dana Rohrabacher, at 6:00 p.m., April 27th, his wife Rhonda gave birth to triplets-Anika, Christian and Tristan. So I don't expect we'll be hearing from Mr. Rohrabacher today. But in absentia, we congratulate him and wish him, and especially his wife, well.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing. I wanted to ask our panelists in their opinion if the United Nations met its obligation under the oil- for-food program, and if not why not, because as all of us know, Mr. Chairman, the welfare of the Iraqi people after having suffered under the yoke of Saddam Hussein's regime for decades was entrusted to the United Nations, the institution that was supposed to provide quality food and medicine to them as an exception to the international sanctions that was placed upon the Iraqi regime in retaliation for the regime's aggression. And as the evidence now appears to indicate, it seems that that trust was broken. The U.N., it seems from the evidence that is now available, allowed Saddam and his allies, his cronies, the abilities to pick the products they wanted, their suppliers, their price, and according to the information that the committee has reviewed, the United Nations seems the-have cared very little about the quality of the products or even their costs, as long as those who supported the Iraqi regime got the contract. They appeared to have forced suppliers to give them kickbacks, pocketed the money for themselves. They cheated the Iraqi people, the very same people that they were supposed to represent. And Saddam's criminal behavior was cynically overlooked by the U.N. Secretariat, the bureaucracy that runs the institution. They were in place to make the decisions to stop this kind of arrangement, but callously they chose not to. And according to the information gathered thus far, the U.N. allowed the people of the Kurdish regions of the north of Iraq to be deprived of the quality medical equipment and denied the ability to grow the very food that could have helped feed their own people.

So, the behavior of the U.N. in this, the largest humanitarian operation in its history, is disappointing. And I wanted to know your opinion about whether the United Nations, in fact, met its obligations under the program, and if not, why not?

If anyone cares to answer. Thank you.

MR. RUGGIE: Could I give that a shot? I'm sorry.

Actually, you should address the Kurdish issue, because everything that I know about the facts on the ground suggest that if anything the Kurdish area was disproportionately benefitted by the oil-for-food program in relative terms. In absolute terms, it may have fallen short, Congresswoman. I'm not claiming that that may not have happened. But in relative terms, it certainly was an area --

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: They got cheated less.

MR. RUGGIE: -- that was better off. One reason for that was that in the rest of the country, the U.N. oil-for-food program had to work through the Iraqi governmental agencies, whereas in the northern (governments?), it could deal directly with the local authorities and the people. Just put that on the record, if I may.

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much. Thank you, Mr. Pence.

REP. BURTON: Would the chairman yield for just a moment, please?

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Yes.

REP. BURTON: If it's possible, I'd like to have that put into the record. Could we have that --

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: The little black book?

REP. BURTON: The information she's --

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: I will take it under advisement with the chairman and let him decide.

REP. BURTON: I think it's extremely important.

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: I will make sure that the chairman (knows?) that. Thank you, Mr. Burton. I hate to decide --

MS. ROSETT: Fine. Put it in the record.

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. ' MS. ROSETT: Okay. I will provide it.

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you very much.

MS. ROSETT: I think it's important this should go public. Thank you.

REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. The gentleman from Iowa, Mr. Leach.

END

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