- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council yesterday put aside bitter divisions over the Iraqi war, giving the United States and Britain a mandate to govern Iraq and use its oil riches to rebuild the country.

The resolution opened the door to a quick resumption of oil exports, which the top U.S. adviser to the oil ministry has said could resume within two to three weeks.

The 14-0 vote was a victory for the Bush administration, which won the backing of the chief opponents to the Iraq war — France, Russia and Germany — even though those nations felt the United Nations wound up with too little say in shaping Iraq’s future.

Syria, the sole Arab country on the council, was absent during the vote. Syria’s state-run press complained that the resolution aimed to control Iraq’s resources “contrary to the people’s will.”

The resolution immediately ends economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, opening the country to international trade and investment and permitting Iraq to resume oil exports.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will appoint a special representative to work with U.S. and British administrators on humanitarian aid, reconstruction and the creation of a new Iraqi government. Speculation centered on U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, who has Washington’s support.

The oil-for-food program, which required Iraqi oil revenue to be used primarily to buy humanitarian supplies, will be phased out over the next six months.

But the status of U.N. weapons inspections is not clear. Under the 1990 resolution imposing sanctions, U.N. inspectors had to certify that Iraq was free of weapons of mass destruction before sanctions could be lifted.

The resolution ends sanctions without that certification. But it reaffirms that “Iraq must meet its disarmament obligations” and says the council will discuss the inspectors’ mandate later. It gives no time frame.

Many council members had complained that the resolution set no end to the U.S. and British occupation of Iraq. Though Washington rejected any time limit, it made a key concession, agreeing to let the Security Council review implementation of the resolution after a year and “consider further steps.”

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock, said yesterday the occupation would last “as short a time as possible.”

Still, France, Russia and Germany — which months ago blocked U.S. efforts to win U.N. approval for an invasion of Iraq — said that at least the United Nations now has a foot in the door.

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said the final version of the resolution “is not perfect,” but “it now provides a credible framework in which the international community can lend support to the Iraqi people.”

Russian U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said his government was “pleased at the results” of the negotiations.

“This is a compromise, and in a compromise, no one gets all that they want,” Mr. Annan said after the vote. “The resolution gives the international community a legal basis for its activity in Iraq. … We will go ahead and do our work.”

In Washington, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said President Bush “is very grateful that the world has come together to lift the sanctions on the long-suffering Iraqi people.”

The fight over whether to wage war on Iraq had torn apart the Security Council. Now, faced with the reality of Saddam Hussein’s ouster and U.S.-led troops controlling Iraq, both sides had wanted to avoid a repeat of the bitterness.

Only Syria’s vote had remained a question mark. Ahead of the morning session, Syrian diplomats asked for a delay of a few hours so the top leadership in Damascus could decide its stance.

But “there was insistence to go on with the vote,” said Syria’s deputy ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad.

In the two weeks since the United States introduced it, the text of the resolution underwent more than 90 changes.

The U.N. political role in Iraq was strengthened somewhat. Instead of a U.N. “special coordinator” called for in initial drafts, Mr. Annan will appoint a “special representative” with greater status.

The representative will have “independent responsibility” and work “intensively” with the United States, Britain and the Iraqi people “to facilitate a process leading to an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq.”

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