With the United Nations Oil-for-Food programme for Iraq finally winding down after “serving as lifeline to a large segment of the population” for seven years, Secretary-General Kofi Annan calls in a new report for the United States and its partners to ensure that the Iraqi people are provided with essential food and medicine. “While the phasing out of the oil-for-food programme is a logical consequence of the termination of sanctions, it will be essential that those who have responsibility for the effective administration of the country ensure that the people of Iraq are provided with the necessary, essential services and, in particular, with food and medicine,” Mr. Annan says in a report requested by recent Security Council resolutions. The programme, under which a sanctions-bound Iraq was allowed to use monitored oil sales revenue for humanitarian purchases, will be phased out by 21 November under the terms of last month’s Council resolution lifting sanctions on Iraq. Giving a balance sheet of the programme since its inception in 1996, Mr. Annan notes that total oil proceeds reached approximately $65 billion as of 20 May, of which $46 billion was allocated to the humanitarian pipeline. The rest was allocated to cover compensation claims and administration costs. To date, more than $28 billion worth of humanitarian goods has been delivered to Iraq. The programme was temporarily halted on 17 March after the withdrawal of all UN staff from Iraq on the eve of hostilities and later adjusted by the Security Council to give Mr. Annan more authority to administer the operation, including prioritizing deliveries and finding new entry ports to speed their shipment. As of 4 June, the value of these priority items reached $1.2 billion, the Office of the Iraq Programme, which oversees the operation, said today. “I should like to appeal to all concerned to give absolute priority to the interests of the Iraqi people, who have suffered far too long,” the Secretary-General says in the report. “All necessary measures should be taken to normalize life for the Iraqi population by urgently ensuring the restoration of security throughout the country, resuming the distribution of the food basket and restoring essential social/public services, with the full participation of the Iraqis themselves.” He pays tribute to all UN international and national staff both in the field and at headquarters for “their commitment and dedicated services to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people under very difficult circumstances.” “I wish to pay special tribute to our national staff who courageously continued to deliver essential supplies throughout the period of conflict,” he adds.