- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) The Bush administration envisions a series of U.N. resolutions on postwar Iraq to help close rifts within the Security Council, working up to the toughest questions such as lifting sanctions against Baghdad.
President Bush last week demanded the removal of sanctions, and John Negroponte, his ambassador to the United Nations, said the issue was key to a step-by-step process addressing postwar Iraq.
The administration is eager to lift the economic sanctions so that Iraqi oil revenue, and not American taxpayers, can pay for a wide array of rebuilding tasks.
But the sanctions question has divided both the administration and the Security Council.
Both splits hinge on what role the United Nations should play in rebuilding, who should get lucrative contracts for reconstruction and whether the United Nations must certify that Iraq has disarmed before it removes sanctions.
Certification is required under U.N. resolutions that established the sanctions.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr. Bush wants sanctions lifted soon. Yet a senior administration official said yesterday it could take months of bridge-building before the United States seeks a sanctions resolution.
Rather than plunging the bitterly divided Security Council directly into that contentious issue, the United States would prefer to take up easier questions first, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The strategy is meant to rebuild trust within the council, the official said.
If it pursues this course, the administration and its allies would offer the first resolution within about two weeks, according to the official.
That first measure probably would constitute the kind of vision statement that other nations have sought from Mr. Bush, offering a reaffirmation of Iraq's territorial sovereignty and a commitment to human rights as a central element of its political future.
Within the Bush administration, this resolution is known as the "statement of principles."
A second resolution would move to renew Security Council Resolution 1472, which restarted a massive U.N. humanitarian program for Iraq after the fighting subsided.
The measure, approved last month, gave Secretary-General Kofi Annan authority to speed billions of dollars of food and medicine to the Iraqis.
It expires May 12, and Mr. Annan's authority is likely to be extended until June 3, when the current six-month phase of the oil-for-food program ends.
The U.N. program uses Iraq's oil revenues to pay for medical supplies and food.
Last month's oil-for-food resolution dealt only with a noncontentious humanitarian issue.
It did not deal with how Iraq could sell its oil in the future for broader purposes.
In a third U.S. resolution, the council would handle the much more difficult issues of what to do about the entwined issues of oil-sale authority and humanitarian relief, officials said.
Under current arrangements, the Iraqi state oil company decides on customers for its oil, and Baghdad seeks the secretary-general's approval of its shopping list of humanitarian goods and similar items.
Freeing oil revenue for other purposes will require a new resolution.
One catch: the requirement that the United Nations certify the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before sanctions can be removed.
Another catch: no U.N. weapons inspectors are inside Iraq to certify that.
Mr. Annan withdrew them just before the war began, and he has pressed for their quick return. The United States has dispatched its own disarmament teams inside Iraq to search for banned weapons and has shown no interest in the return of U.N. inspectors.
One official said yesterday the administration considers the wording of the disarmament requirement flexible enough to allow lifting economic sanctions to sell oil to pay for rebuilding, while leaving in place other punitive measures aimed at stopping Iraq's weapons programs.

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