Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 1 News List

US, UK press for end to sanctions on Iraq

CLOSURE A tough resolution to end the 12 years of UN sanctions against the country was dubbed by an EU diplomat as an attempt by the US to take over Iraq's oil

REUTERS , UNITED NATIONS AND COPENHAGEN

The US and Britain planned to introduce a resolution yesterday that would end 12 years of UN sanctions against Iraq and give them control of the country's oil revenues for at least a year.

The tough resolution that in effect relegates the UN and other international institutions to an advisory role with little power, would phase out over four months the existing UN oil-for-food humanitarian program.

The US and Britain, who sponsored the measure along with Spain, want a vote by June 3, when that program, which gives the UN control over the oil revenues, needs to be renewed.

Without adoption of the resolution, no Iraqi, US or UN entity in Baghdad has the legal authority to export oil.

The George W. Bush administration is counting on approval from Russia, France, China and Germany, who had the strongest anti-war position in the 15-member body, with officials saying there was little enthusiasm for another bruising fight.

Nevertheless, the text, which two senior council diplomats called "hard" and "in your face," will probably face amendments from France and Russia, who have favored suspending the sanctions but leaving some control with the UN until an Iraqi government is established.

And nearly every council member, including Britain, had wanted to send UN weapons inspectors back to Iraq, as called for as in at least 16 resolutions as a condition for lifting the sanctions, imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. But the draft resolution ignores any such requirement.

The US proposal, endorsed by Britain and Spain, would deposit Iraqi oil revenues in an "Iraqi Assistance Fund" for humanitarian and reconstruction purposes, to be held by the Iraqi Central Bank, currently managed by Peter McPherson, a former deputy US Treasury secretary.

An EU commissioner said in response to the resolution's release yesterday that he believed the US was "on its way to becoming a member of OPEC."

"They [the US] will appropriate the oil," he told Danish public service DR radio news on return from a three-day trip to Iraq. "It is very difficult to see how this would make sense in any other way."

"I think that the United States is on its way to becoming a member of OPEC," he added, referring to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Nielson, a Dane, said he did not expect US troops who have toppled Iraq's Saddam Hussein in a war launched in March to withdraw soon from the Arab state.

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