Coalition blocking aid, says Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Baghdad has accused America and Britain of forcing the United Nations to stop a relief program that allows Iraq food and medical supplies in return for oil sales.
The accusation came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned of a humanitarian disaster in Basra.
The city of 1.7 million people has been without electricity and water for at least two days, according to CNN's Daryn Kagan, and is now a military target of coalition forces. (Full story)
Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi al-Salih Tuesday called for U.N. aid shipments being held "in the sea" near Iraq or at Iraq's borders to be released into the country.
He said the shipments could feed the Iraqi people for two years and asked Annan to ensure they were sent immediately.
"The evil administration represented by Bush and Blair are haunting the people of Iraq not just by bombs they are dropping every day on the citizens and invading their holy land which they are going to be buried in, but now they are preventing food and medicine from the people of Iraq," al-Salih told reporters in Baghdad Tuesday.
The trade minister said before the war started, the government provided the Iraqi people with enough food for six months. But an official with the program said food rations might not last six weeks among poorer Iraqis.
Iraq has already paid for food and medicine that has yet to be delivered.
The U.N. Security Council is due to discuss the oil-for-food program on Tuesday.
Annan has said he is determined to restore the program "as soon as possible." It is estimated that 60 percent of Iraqis depend on it.
He said it was "the occupying power's responsibility" to provide welfare for Iraqis, but the U.N. would do what it could to help.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday that efforts were under way to clear paths for delivering aid, especially to Basra.
The American Red Cross has positioned stocks in Turkey and Bulgaria.
U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks said Monday ships had been loaded and would begin to deliver food, water and other supplies to the Gulf region in the next few days.
The U.S. Central Command says coalition forces plan to move aid with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development and other non-governmental agencies like the World Food Program (WFP).
WFP spokesperson Khaled Mansour has said the cost of covering the basic food needs of the Iraqis could be around $1 billion.
To date, WFP has received about $44 million from the United States, which Mansour says should cover the needs of two million people for one month.
Meanwhile, trucks filled with enough food to provide 45,000 meals a day planned to leave Kuwait City for the border Tuesday, where they would await clearance to enter southern Iraq, the Red Crescent Society said.
The meals do not need cooking, and include water and juice.