Global Policy Forum

Security Council Extends Protection of Iraq's Assets


By Neil MacFarquhar

New York Times
December 22, 2008

The Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on Monday extending United Nations protection over Iraq's assets through 2009, effectively shielding its oil and other revenues from billions of dollars in international claims stemming from the era of Saddam Hussein. "We need the assurances that Iraq's resources and financial assets are available for the country's recovery program," Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, told the Council. "Without such assurances, the functioning of the Iraqi government and the current stability could be seriously in danger." A United Nations mandate has covered Iraq's financial assets "along with American and other foreign forces in the country" since 2003. But given the newly concluded status-of-forces agreement between Washington and Baghdad, that authorization will end on Dec. 31.

Iraq has sought to extend United Nations protection for its financial assets to maintain immunity from all those seeking compensation against the state. Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, called the resolution "vital" to guaranteeing Iraq's development. The resolution was introduced by the United States and Britain. Iraq had been hoping for an omnibus resolution that would not only protect its assets from lawsuits for several years, but also include a review process to cancel some 50 resolutions on Iraq passed by the Security Council since Mr. Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Mr. Zebari said in an interview. Once they are all dealt with, Iraq's full sovereignty will be restored. Initially it seemed that members of the Security Council itself would engage in the review process. But after extended discussions with Mr. Zebari over the past week, Council members agreed to allow Iraq to conduct the review with the United Nations Secretariat, which would then report to the Council for action.

The resolution did not specify a timetable, but Mr. Zebari said he expected the review to begin within six months. Some of the resolutions, for example, deal with the era when the United Nations was punishing Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait and trying to curb its weapons development. There was general sympathy among Security Council members for extending the protection over Iraq's assets while it was getting back on its feet, but the members objected to extending the protection for more than a year at a time, diplomats familiar with the discussions said. Mr. Zebari said that the Iraqi Finance Ministry estimated outstanding claims at some $1 trillion, and that settlements would have to be reached eventually, but not while the country was rebuilding in the midst of collapsing oil prices.


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