US Faces Opposition Over New Iraq Resolution

Associated Press
May 8, 2003

The United States is to urge the UN Security Council this week to lift sanctions on Iraq immediately and phase out the Oil-for-Food aid programme over the next four months, diplomats said. But the proposal already faces opposition from Russia and France. A senior Russian official said yesterday that in the short term Moscow only wanted a suspension of the embargoes on food and medicine - suggesting that a new confrontation may be in the works. Washington also announced yesterday that it had lifted some of the sanctions that it imposed on Iraq after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, allowing humanitarian aid and remittances in from the United States.

The US resolution would create an international advisory board - including Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund - to audit how Iraqi oil income is spent and to ensure it is used to benefit the Iraqi people, the security council diplomats said. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, said that the US expected to present the draft this week. Russia has already circulated its own draft resolution calling for Mr Annan to run the Oil-for-Food programme, including taking charge of Iraq's oil sales and future development of its oilfields until an internationally recognised Iraqi government comes to power. Yuri Fedotov, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister, said yesterday that Moscow wanted sanctions lifted as soon as possible, but in accordance with council resolutions, meaning that the world body must be certain that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. "It is obvious that developing a procedure for lifting these sanctions is going to take some time," Mr Fedotov said.

Under council resolutions, UN inspectors must certify that Iraq's alleged nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes have been eliminated along with the long-range missiles to deliver them before sanctions could be lifted. The council diplomats did not say whether the draft US resolution addressed weapons inspections. The United States has deployed its own inspection teams and top US officials have said that they don't want UN inspectors to return any time soon. France has also made a proposal that doesn't meet US wishes. It wants to suspend the sanctions, phase out the Oil-for-Food programme, have US and UN inspectors work together, and lift sanctions when a legitimate Iraqi government is in place. But there were indications that Germany might back the US this time, and many council members have said that they really want to avoid another bruising battle and to try to find a consensus - something that Mr Annan has also been pushing for.

Mr Powell and Mr Bush both adopted a conciliatory tone yesterday, stressing the importance of putting aside past differences and uniting to help Iraq rebuild. The United States has launched a diplomatic offensive to win support for the new UN resolution, sending Kim Holmes, the Assistant Secretary of State, to Moscow and Berlin and putting Iraq on the agenda of Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State, while visiting Pakistan, which currently holds the Security Council presidency.

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