Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 102

The Russian Duma overwhelmingly approved a statement May 24 calling for the suspension of international economic sanctions against Iraq. It also urged Russian president Boris Yeltsin to promote talks between Baghdad and the UN in hopes of winning a gradual lifting of sanctions. The statement charged that sanctions had resulted in a chronic lack of food and medication that threatened the survival of the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi population. It also described the failure to lift sanctions gradually as "an obstacle to the restoration of peace and the strengthening of stability in the Persian Gulf." It added that sanctions had damaged Russia’s legitimate economic interests in Iraq. (Itar-Tass & Interfax, May 24)

The Russian government has, in any event, consistently lobbied for Baghdad at the UN, and on several occasions has sent humanitarian aid to Iraq. Russian economic interests, particularly those from the oil sector, have also been active in negotiating deals with the Iraqi government that are to be launched following the lifting of sanctions. In February, a Russian government official said that the total value of these future transactions amounted to some $10 billion. Iraq’s debt to Russia is estimated at $7 billion. On May 20 Iraq signed an agreement with the UN that permits Baghdad to sell up to $1 billion worth of oil every ninety days under close UN supervision, with the proceeds to be directed primarily toward the purchase of food and medicine for the civilian population.

Ups and Downs with Pyongyang.