Bush Urges End to Iraq Sanctions


By Joel Brinkley

New York Times
April 17, 2003

President George W. Bush urged the United Nations on Wednesday to lift economic sanctions against Iraq that have been in place since the first Gulf War, challenging members to recognize the U.S.-led coalition's military success despite the strong opposition many countries showed to the war. "Now that Iraq has been liberated, the United Nations should lift sanctions on that country," Bush said, speaking to workers at a Boeing plant in St. Louis, Missouri, where some advanced warplanes used in Iraq are made. Many members and perhaps a majority of the UN Security Council, led by France, Germany, Russia and China, opposed the war in Iraq, and now several of them, led by France, are pushing to give the United Nations the central role in Iraq's transitional government, an idea Bush opposes. Calling on these same countries to vote to lift sanctions on Iraq would require them to give indirect approval of the war, or at least of its outcome.

But because the economic sanctions forbidding trade with Iraq where put in place in 1991 to pressure the government of Saddam Hussein, it might be hard now to argue that they should not be lifted. "Organized military resistance has virtually ended," Bush said, "and the major cities of Iraq have been liberated. One week ago Baghdad was filled with statutes and pictures of the dictator. They are kind of hard to find today."

Earlier Wednesday, Bush signed into law a $79 billion spending package to pay for the war in Iraq. He also gave a speech in which he also made another determined pitch for a massive tax cut that Democrats and some Republicans say the nation cannot afford. He urged Congress to pass the tax cut quickly, saying it will "stimulate job growth" and give you more money in your pocket so you can decide how to save or spend." But Bush made only a glancing reference to economic matters in this speech at the Boeing plant, ending that discussion with the remark: "The other big task of this nation is to overcome any threats to this country, wherever they gather."

So far, the Defense Department said Wednesday, the war has cost about $20 billion. Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's comptroller, said several billion dollars more would be spent bringing combat troops home. He said military operations in Iraq had cost about $10 billion, personnel costs had totaled about $6 billion so far and the cost of munitions had exceeded $3 billion. He offered no cost estimate for stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq.

At another Pentagon news briefing, Major General Stanley McChrystal said the coalition was "transitioning fairly rapidly toward providing support and stability in major areas of the country." Still, he added, U.S. forces are still moving into outer areas of that country that have not yet seen coalition troops, and the risks there are not known. Bush said: "Our work is not done, the difficulties have not passed. But the regime of Saddam Hussein has passed into history. Organized military resistance has virtually ended, the major cities of Iraq have been liberated."

The end result, Bush added, is that "the lives of Iraqi people will be better than anything they have known for generations." At the same time on Wednesday, the Bush administration lowered the national terror alert level from high to elevated, another sign that the war in Iraq is winding down. The administration said the end of heavy fighting had reduced the threat of terrorist attacks, so some security measures around the country could be relaxed. The elevated, or yellow, level signifies an advanced risk of terrorist attacks. It is the middle level on the five-tier danger scale. The previous level, orange, signifies a high risk, and is the second-highest level. Even with the reduction, Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, said, "We must be vigilant and alert to the possibility that Al Qaeda and those sympathetic to their cause, as well as former Iraqi-regime state agents and affiliated organizations, may attempt to conduct attacks against the U.S. or our interests abroad."

Amplifying that point, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that terrorist might still obtain Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, since coalition forces have not found them, and take them out of the country. "We still have a lot of work to do in finding and securing weapons of mass destruction sites and making sure that these biological and chemical weapons don't fall into the hands of terrorists," Myers said on CNN. "That's still a possibility now." The United States and Britain have identified several possible sites for these weapons, but most have been determined to have held chemicals for agriculture or other legitimate purposes, though some test results are incomplete.

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