Sat, May 17, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Iraq resolution revised in push for UN approval

REUTERS , UNITED NATIONS

In an effort to meet objections from Security Council members, the US submitted a new draft of its resolution to lift sanctions against Iraq without changing any basic demands.

The measure still gives wide-ranging powers to the US and Britain to run Iraq and decide how to spend its oil wealth to rebuild the country until a permanent government is established.

The text, a US official said, included more than 25 changes suggested by the 15 council members, although many were cosmetic. The US expects a vote next week.

The new draft, circulated on Thursday, beefs up the role of a UN envoy in Iraq, called a coordinator, but leaves most of his or her duties vague, a persistent criticism by Russia, France, Germany, China and others.

Diplomats said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan preferred Lakhdar Brahimi, the former foreign minister of Algeria now heading the UN operation in Afghanistan, for the post, but he so far has refused the job. Another candidate is Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, the UN high commissioner for human rights, long said to be the Bush administration's favorite.

The UN envoy was given a seat on an international advisory group that would approve auditors for a Development Fund in which Iraq's oil wealth would be placed. But the board has no decision-making powers on how the money is spent.

The oil revenues and the Development Fund would be immune from claims and lawsuits. But the new draft says that would expire once a permanent internationally recognized Iraqi government was established, a process that could take years.

Without UN action to lift the 13-year-old sanctions, the US and Britain would be in a legal no man's land in Iraq, with many companies unwilling to engage in trade, and Iraq's oil exports open to lawsuits.

Another revision was a suggestion that Iraq's current US$400 billion of debt be handled by "international mechanisms" like the Paris Club of 19 wealthy nations that restructure debt.

The UN currently controls Iraq's oil revenues in an oil-for-food program, which would be phased out over four months. Unresolved is how many contracts currently in the US$12 billion program would be honored, although diplomats said the US was nearing a deal with Russia on commitments made by the government of President Saddam Hussein, recently ousted by US-led forces.

The new draft, co-sponsored by Britain and Spain, was distributed to council members shortly after Secretary of State Colin Powell said he would consider suspending rather than lifting the sweeping sanctions, imposed shortly after Saddam armies invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

But both he and other US officials immediately retreated from the proposal, making it clear that the administration of US President George W. Bush was not ready to make such a major concession.

The White House, and Powell himself, later made clear suspension was not an option. "With the regime gone, there is no reason to do anything other than lift the sanctions so that the Iraqi people can become fully integrated into the global economy," Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman, said.

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