Murkowski continues call for Iraqi oil ban

Posted: Friday, July 27, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski has backed off on an attempt to add a ban on Iraqi oil imports to a bill extending similar bans on Iranian and Libyan oil.

However, he said Senate leaders have promised him an ''up or down'' vote on the issue later.

After Murkowski withdrew his amendment Wednesday night, the Senate voted 96-2 in favor of the bill extending trade sanctions against Iran and Libya to 2006. The sanctions are set to expire in early August without a congressional extension.

Before the vote, Murkowski urged his colleagues to add Iraq.

''We need to end the blatant inconsistency between our energy policy and our foreign policy,'' he said. ''We need to get our head out of the sand.''

Murkowski introduced a bill earlier this month to ban Iraqi oil imports.

He said Iraqi oil now accounts for 10 percent of total U.S. imports, despite occasional U.S. bombing of military installations in Iraq that has been going on for 10 years to contain President Saddam Hussein contained.

''Clearly, we are almost at war with this individual,'' Murkowski said. ''I would implore if you will our colleagues to recognize that we are on a very dangerous slippery slope with Iraq as we simply take for granted their willingness to sell us oil, and we take for granted ... an increasing dependence on that source and seem to be totally unconcerned about it.''

Murkowski has used the irony of the Iraqi imports in his efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. He said ANWR is a better alternative for both the American economy and the world environment.

''There seems to be little concern about what kind of oil field, how environmentally compatible Saddam Hussein's oil fields are,'' he said.

Environmental groups opposed to ANWR development do not talk about that, he said. ''They don't seem to care. It's too far away.''

Like Iran and Libya, Hussein backs terrorism, Murkowski said. ''If there is justification for sanctions against Iran and Libya, there is certainly justification for sanctions against Iraq.''

Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., said Murkowski gave the Senate food for thought but there were other considerations.

Sarbanes warned against the United States taking its own path without the backing of other countries.

''If we start playing this unilateral game on Iraq, where we have multilateral sanctions in place, we may erode and undermine the multilateral sanctions,'' he said. Countries that now support oil-for-food restrictions on Iraq may see little reason to do so any longer if the United States essentially ends its participation, Sarbanes said.

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