Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Watchdog to monitor use of Iraqi oil

REUTERS , UNITED NATIONS

Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros said on Tuesday he was setting up a watchdog group to guard against any abuses in how the US manages Iraq's oil resources while it occupies Baghdad.

Soros, at a news conference at UN headquarters, also said he hoped Iraq would not repay all its foreign debt stemming from former president Saddam Hussein's years in power, in order -- he said -- to discourage the practice of lending money to dictators.

Citing reports that a handful of US corporations were winning huge reconstruction contracts from Washington without competitive bidding, Soros said many people around the world feared the US might abuse its authority while it and close ally Britain occupied post-war Iraq.

"It is very much in the interest of the United States to allay these fears, and we want to help," he said.

A US-drafted resolution pending in the UN Security Council would give the US and Britain wide-ranging powers to run Iraq and control its oil industry until a permanent government was set up, a process that could take years.

Soros -- an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush's doctrine justifying a preemptive war against any country the US deems a threat, as occurred in Iraq -- said he planned to set up a watchdog group because the draft resolution failed to provide sufficient safeguards.

He called on the Security Council's 14 other member-nations to press for changes in the draft that would give the UN a greater role in monitoring Iraq's oil exploitation during the occupation.

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