Iraqis awakened yesterday to hopes of a new future after the UN lifted 13 years of crippling sanctions, marking another step down the difficult road of rebuilding after Saddam Hussein.
Some fired flares across the sky in celebration but for others in Iraq the move, six weeks after US-led forces ended Saddam's brutal reign, was a sign the US wants to tighten its grip on the nation.
"I've heard from my father all about the good times of the 1970s," said Osama Faad, a 15-year-old in the town of Haswa, outside Baghdad, who said he himself has known nothing but chronic shortages all his life.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the good times again."
The UN Security Council on Thursday did away with the sanctions imposed on Iraq after Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and gave the US and Britain a largely free hand in running the nation until a government is formed.
Washington's UN ambassador, John Negroponte, called the decision "a momentous event for the people of Iraq" after France, Germany and Russia, the leading opponents of the war to oust Saddam, gave their blessing to the move.
Saddam's regime insisted the sanctions killed more than half a million children, due to a lack of medicine, and the shelves of many Iraqi shops were bare long before the wave of looting that swept the nation after his ouster.
But in the days following his fall, Iraqis got a first-hand look at the opulent palaces and grandiose compounds that housed Saddam and his ruling elite while much of the rest of the nation scraped along in crushing poverty.
"This population has been humiliated," said Francis Dubois, the Baghdad representative of the UN Development Program. "The Iraqis need to be regiven hope."
Many Iraqis expressed a cautious optimism Friday that the end of the sanctions meant a fresh start for the long-suffering nation.
"There are no jobs because of the embargo," said Abdel Sattar Ali, doing his morning shopping in a Baghdad bakery. "The lifting of the sanctions might lower prices."
Mohammed Safa, a money trader who said the dollar had dropped to 1,000 dinars from 1,200 after the formal announcement the sanctions were over, said the shift was mostly psychological and that there was little real change.
Khaled Ali Mustafa, who described himself as a poet, was dismissive of the US-led administration here and had no good words about the lifting of the sanctions.
"It's a cover-up for the occupation," he said.
Nizar Abbas, a journalist, spoke for many here when he said that the immediate concern in the capital was not business but a return to order amid the lawlessness which has gripped the city since Saddam fell from power on April 9.
"We need better security before there can be any better economy," he said.
A senior diplomat at the UN Security Council in New York said that the decision of the war's opponents to approve the measure appeared to have been partly determined by Washington's new choice of a boss in Baghdad.
Nearly two weeks ago, Paul Bremer was named as the top civilian administrator here to replace Jay Garner, a retired US general who has been blamed for much of the chaos in post-war Iraq.
The lack of security and the slow pace of restoring basic services like running water and electricity had left many in Washington fearful that the US coalition would lose the peace after winning the war.