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AFTER THE WAR

Way Appears Clear for Lifting Sanctions Against Iraq

May 22, 2003|John J. Goldman | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — France, Russia and Germany said Wednesday that they would vote for a resolution to end almost 13 years of sanctions against Iraq -- guaranteeing passage by a wide margin at today's Security Council meeting.

The three countries opposed the U.S.-led military action in Iraq and had major concerns about the resolution. The trio said its decision -- a victory for the Bush administration -- was a bid to restore international cooperation.

"Even if this text does not go as far as we would like, we have decided to vote for this resolution," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said at a news conference in France with his German and Russian counterparts. "This is because we have chosen the path of unity of the international community."

France and Germany had proposed suspending sanctions for a year, rather than removing them unconditionally, as demanded by the United States. The U.S. agreed to new language that allows the Security Council to review the implementation of the resolution within 12 months of taking action and consider if other steps might be necessary.

As a condition for approval, Russia wanted to secure the rights of U.N. arms inspectors to return to Iraq to certify that any weapons of mass destruction were eliminated.

The resolution did not include that language, instead speaking in general terms of the need to disarm Iraq.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov expressed reservations about the final draft. But along with De Villepin and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Ivanov said the resolution drafted by the U.S. and Britain opens the door for greater involvement by the world body.

"We want a central role for the United Nations," Ivanov said.

U.S. officials say lifting the sanctions paves the way for Iraq to resume oil sales, a key to funding the reconstruction of the country and rebuilding its broken economy. Since its introduction last week, the draft went through four revisions. U.S. diplomats said there were more than 90 changes.

A key compromise called for upgrading the oversight role given to a special U.N. representative to be appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The final draft noted the representative would have "independent responsibilities," including reporting regularly to the Security Council.

At the same time, the U.S. and Britain retain broad powers to run Iraq until a representative government is elected and is recognized by the world community.

As part of their interim powers, the U.S. and Britain will have authority to disburse revenue from Iraqi's oil sales in consultation with an interim administration in Iraq. That will enable the tapping of Iraq's vast oil riches to help rebuild the country's infrastructure -- a process being overseen by U.S. engineering contractors.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has lobbied hard for the resolution, speaking by phone with the foreign ministers of France, Russia, China and Britain, as well as Mexico, which was considered a critical swing vote on the 15-nation Security Council.

"Our impression is that the council members have welcomed this resolution and that it enjoys strong support," said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John D. Negroponte.

As the U.S. and Britain sought consensus, a major question was the position of Syria, which recalled its U.N. ambassador for consultations. Syria's deputy ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad, told reporters outside the council that if he didn't receive instructions before the voting, he would not take part in the meeting.

Pakistan's U.N. ambassador, Munir Akram, the current president of the Security Council, indicated that consensus was not complete.

"We're not there yet, but we have 24 hours," he said.

Revisions to the draft resolution were hashed out by experts from each nation on the council, meeting in a basement conference room. At the urging of France and Russia, the final draft phases out Iraq's oil-for-food program in six months, not the four months initially proposed.

In another sign that the United States and Europe were overcoming the dispute over the Iraq war, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreed Wednesday to help the Polish government lead a peacekeeping force in Iraq.

NATO will provide only modest technical assistance to the effort, which is expected to involve at least 7,000 peacekeepers.

Nonetheless, U.S. officials said the move may open the door to further help from NATO, whose members argued bitterly before the war whether to help member nation Turkey defend itself against any attack by Iraq.

Some U.S. officials were pleased to see a new role for organization, which has struggled to find a clearly defined purpose since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. NATO recently took a step toward broadening its activities by agreeing to take on peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan.

"This is a big step forward by the NATO alliance," Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, said in Brussels.

"This puts us squarely in the mix."

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Times staff writers Robin Wright and Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.

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