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In Iraq: February 28

Return to Showdown in the Gulf
The burning oil fields of Kuwait were an unforgettable image of the Persian Gulf War that was as much about oil as it was about Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqis made it clear Saturday they believe their latest troubles with the West -- especially the U.S. and Britain -- are also about oil.

"They want to undermine the sovereignty of Iraq, they want to break Iraq, they don't want an independent leadership in the area. They want to dictate their terms they want to control oil fields in the area," said Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Rashid in a Bagdad news conference on Saturday.

Iraq is now using its own enormous oil reserves as a pawn. The U.N. has given Iraq permission to double the amount of oil it is allowed to pump and sell under a deal known as "oil for food".

"This would enable the government then to put much more money into not just foods and nutritional needs but of course into the medical, health sector," said U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Denis Halliday.

Every stage of the oil-for-food deal has been monitored by the United Nations. The U.N. believes the suffering caused by sanctions could be alleviated if Iraq production could meet allowable levels.

The Iraqis say they can't meet these levels because they need more money for maintenance and spare parts. And this is where politics and oil get mixed again.

New deals to exploit the vast Iraqi oil fields are already being cut with those countries Baghdad considers its friends.

"We have signed with the Russians with the Chinese we hope in the very near future we sign with France," Rashid said.

Russia, China, and France are the three members of the Security Council who opposed the latest U.S. military confrontation with Iraq.

As one diplomat in Bagdad explained, there is nothing that happens in this region that isn't about dollars and oil.

The positions of governments mean little. What counts most is why a stand was taken, and the answer more often than not is money.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report

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