Wed, May 14, 2003 - Page 6 News List

France sets limits on resolution that bans Iraq sanctions


France set conditions for lifting UN sanctions against Iraq as Security Council members began to dissect a US-drafted resolution that would allow Washington broad control over Iraq's oil industry.

All 15 ambassadors of nations on the Security Council discuss the document, introduced last Friday, tomorrow.

Junior diplomats, experts on the Middle East, asked questions at a Monday meeting that reflected misgivings by China, France, Germany, Mexico and Syria in giving the US and Britain carte blanche on post-war Iraq, participants at the session said.

Under the resolution, all sanctions imposed 12 years ago against Iraq would be lifted except for an arms embargo. Iraq's oil revenues, now under UN control, would be turned over to a new Iraqi Assistance Fund whose monies "shall be disbursed at the direction" of the US and Britain for reconstruction and humanitarian purposes.

In Paris, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin in an interview with the French daily Le Monde laid out a series of changes France wanted in the resolution, although it was not clear how far he would go to see them fulfilled.

French diplomats at the UN so far have confined discussions to questions rather than demands.

On oil revenues, Villepin said the UN and other international institutions would have to play more than the advisory role foreseen in the resolution.

"We have to establish rules for sharing oil revenues and ensuring that the management is placed under international and uncontested control," he said in the interview on Monday.

The US text appears to relegate the UN to a supportive role. But US and British diplomats say that once a UN representative appears in Iraq, his or her role would be more closely defined and not appear as powerless as it looks.

Villepin said provisions in the text referring to the UN envoy were "too vague and too timid."

"At the end of an initial phase of making the country safe, the UN progressively should take responsibility for the political transition ... as was the case in Afghanistan, Kosovo and also Bosnia," de Villepin said.

He also questioned the draft's provision that would prohibit lawsuits on oil exploitation and sales. "This could cause a problem and warrants careful consideration," he said.

French envoys at Monday's meeting said the US needed to answer detailed questions about the political process in Iraq or be obligated to report back to the council when the situation became clearer, diplomats reported.

Villepin also repeated France's earlier contention that the sanctions should be suspended before a final lifting of the embargoes which were originally imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

He said UN resolutions call for weapons inspectors to verify that Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction. But he said details on when inspectors could return would have to be worked out between the inspectors and the coalition.

British envoys indicated the draft resolution was not the last word and other issues, such as the future of weapons inspectors, could be negotiated in a separate document.

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