The world body has transferred $2.6 billion to the Fund for the Development of Iraq, which is managed by the US-led occupation that spearheaded the war on Iraq last year and today occupies the country, an official UN source said on Thursday.

The fund is an evolution of the seven-year-old UN oil-for-food program, whose functions were transferred to the US-led occupation forces by a UN Security Council resolution last 22 May.

The $2.6 billion transfer, done in the closing hours of 2003, was the fourth and largest to the fund. One billion was transferred on May 24, a second billion in October and a third tranche in November.

Food and medicine

The oil-for-food programme, set up in 1996, was intended to mitigate the effects of international sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, by using UN-controlled sales of Iraqi oil to buy food and medicine for the civilian population.

In the ensuing seven years, according to UN figures, the programme has generated oil revenues totalling $65 billion. Of that, $46 billion has been allocated to the food programme, with the rest going to compensate victims of the invasion of Kuwait and financing the costs of administration and arms inspections.