- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

The United States yesterday suspended some long-standing economic sanctions against Iraq imposed after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.In a simultaneous move, Washington dispatched its top diplomats to several countries with seats on the U.N. Security Council to seek support for a U.S.-sponsored resolution ending international sanctions against Iraq, which is to be introduced this week.Announcing the Bush administration’s decision at the White House, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said, “The easing of U.S. sanctions will bring much-needed aid and humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives after more than two decades of brutal dictatorship.”President Bush, at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, also announced the suspension of the U.S. sanctions, as spelled out in the Iraq Sanctions Act of 1990.In addition, Mr. Bush, noting a changed atmosphere at the United Nations since the ouster of Saddam, said the United States, Britain and Spain, who are Security Council members, would soon introduce a resolution to lift the international sanctions imposed on Iraq.”The atmosphere that existed prior to the war has changed, and … people now want to work together for the good of the Iraqi people,” Mr. Bush said of the U.N. effort.Other council members had blocked American efforts to win the body’s backing for the U.S.-led war on Iraq.The Iraq Sanctions Act codified into law previous presidential orders imposing sanctions on trade with Iraq, including licensing of industrial and commercial projects or restricting exports of U.S. goods, technology and services.The suspension will allow government-funded and private humanitarian aid to be shipped to Iraq and let people in the United States send up to $500 a month to friends and family in the Persian Gulf country, Mr. Snow told reporters.The export of certain goods controlled for national security purposes, however, will require a special government license, he said.Secretary of State Colin L. Powell recommended to Mr. Bush last week that the sanctions be eased because they were meant to punish Saddam’s regime, which no longer exists.U.S. officials expect that suspending U.N. sanctions against Iraq will be more difficult, even though Mr. Powell said yesterday that “it’s a resolution that everybody will be able to rally around.”“We would expect to present it to all the council members this week,” he said.Mr. Powell and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met in New York yesterday to discuss the council measure, which also would create a position of special U.N. coordinator for Iraq reconstruction.”Our aim is to create the conditions for the return to normal life for the Iraqi people and for Iraq’s return to the international community as a member in good standing,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.”So we’ve been discussing our ideas on this with other members of the Security Council and coalition allies in order to put together a resolution that can accomplish these goals,” he said. “We want to garner the widest possible support for this resolution.”A senior State Department official later said that a draft of the document, which has been discussed in some substance only with Britain, will be shared with other council members within days.”It deals with some of these issues of selling oil and setting up transparent processes so that we make sure the proceeds can be used for the Iraqi people,” he said.Mr. Powell began the series of consultations by visiting Spain and Syria, also a council member, last week, and is to go to Russia, Bulgaria and Germany next week. Yesterday, he met in Washington with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.Kim Holmes, assistant secretary of state for international organizations, left yesterday for Russia and Germany, and Mr. Powell’s deputy, Richard Armitage, is visiting Pakistan.While U.S. officials warned that negotiating the resolution will be a difficult process, the only council member publicly opposed to lifting the international sanctions is Russia. It demands a U.N. certification that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction, as required by council resolutions.A senior U.S. diplomat told reporters at the State Department this week that Moscow has yet to fully realize that the situation in Iraq has changed sharply with Saddam’s ouster.In an attempt to win Russia’s support for lifting the sanctions, Washington has agreed to let Moscow benefit from contracts within the U.N. oil-for-food program even if it is not extended after it expires June 3.The U.S. position is that “approved and already-funded contracts should be honored,” a senior American official said.Administration officials said they are trying to convince Russia that lifting the U.N. sanctions is in its economic interests.”We have argued that their longer-term interests in Iraq would be best assured by working to find a constructive relationship with the emerging Iraqi authorities and to look … forward and not to refight the battles that we fought in the Security Council,” the senior U.S. diplomat said.France, which led opposition in the council to the war, has moved closer to the U.S. view on U.N. sanctions, although it prefers to “suspend” them, while Washington wants to “lift” or “end” them.Senior German officials visiting Washington this week told a group of reporters that, unlike Russia, they see no “straight linkage” between the lifting of the international sanctions and the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”But the disarmament element has to be resolved in a satisfactory way,” a senior official said.

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