Oil for Food -- and Guns and Leverage

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Focus: Iraq Who stands to profit most from the expansion of the Oil for Food program the U.N. put into place just before Kofi Annan went to Baghdad? The new plan will allow Iraq to increase its sales to roughly half the amount of oil it was pumping before the Gulf War. As it turns out, France and Russia pushed the program much harder than Iraq, which initially feared this option would reduce pressure to get sanctions lifted. But Saddam Hussein realized that the more cash he could earn to buy food to keep Iraqis from starving, the more hard currency reserves -- into which he had been dipping -- could be used for the Republican Guards. French and Russian companies are betting that pumping oil now will give them a permanent foothold in Iraq's rich oil fields when sanctions are finally lifted. France is still smarting at being shut out of the Saudi and Kuwaiti markets after the Gulf War, and both France and Russia would like nothing better than to keep the U.S. out of Iraq's oil fields for good.