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Germany indicates support for lifting Iraqi sanctions

Saturday, May 17, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- Russia, China and France made clear Friday they want major changes in a U.S.-backed resolution to lift sanctions against Iraq, but Germany indicated it was likely to support the proposal.

With President Bush's administration pushing for a vote next week, Security Council members finished a paragraph-by-paragraph review of the nine-page revised draft resolution late Friday. Many called for a stronger U.N. role in postwar Iraq and greater transparency by the occupying powers, the United States and Britain, diplomats said.

In key capitals, there were also intensified high-level contacts ahead of what could be a final round of negotiations next week.

Russian Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov told the Interfax news agency after meeting China's Deputy Foreign Minister Yang Wenchang Friday that both countries "believe that provisions in this draft resolution require serious amendments."

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Paris also is pushing for changes in the resolution including a larger U.N. role in Iraq's reconstruction. "We are proposing a number of modifications, of amendments, that will make it most effective," he said in an interview with France-Inter radio.

Russia and France have called for sanctions to be suspended -- not lifted -- and for U.N. weapons inspectors to certify that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been eliminated, as called for in the Security Council resolution imposing the punitive measures. The issue is not addressed in the draft resolution.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell fared better on a trip to Germany, where Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said it "makes no sense" to keep punitive sanctions on the backs of the Iraqi people.

Schroeder, interviewed later Friday by ARD television, was asked whether Germany would vote for the draft U.S. resolution on sanctions and replied that Security Council members were "moving closer together."

"I expect that sanctions will be lifted quickly," he said. "In the end, this is about the people of Iraq, who must be helped as soon as possible."

After months of acrimony and official snubs, Schroeder's backing of the U.N. resolution was the first sign of cooperation with Washington on Iraq. Many in Germany hoped it was a sign that the frayed ties between Washington and Berlin were on the mend.

France, Russia, China and Germany opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq -- and Paris, Moscow and Beijing have serious reservations about the U.S.-backed plan for postwar Iraq.

Germany, too, has publicly favored a stronger role for the United Nations in putting together a new interim government for Iraq.

The revised U.S. draft circulated Thursday did not address two key concerns raised by many council members -- the limited role of the United Nations in postwar Iraq and the powerful role of the United States and Britain as occupying powers.

Syria's deputy U.N. ambassador Fayssal Mekdad said that during the review of the draft resolution, the key demands were for a stronger U.N. role, more transparency in how the United States and Britain are going to run the country, and more specifics on procedures for the sale of Iraqi oil.

"The co-sponsors promised to take all these remarks and to come back to us," he said.

A British diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the co-sponsors would decide on which ideas to reflect in a revised text, which will probably be circulated next week.

The latest resolution strengthens language used to describe what a new U.N. coordinator for Iraq will do, using words such as promote, encourage, and coordinate instead of support. But it does not increase the U.N.'s role in forming a new Iraqi government.

The United States and Britain would be authorized to run the country for a year, with automatic extensions, and to control a development fund where money from oil sales would be deposited.

The draft resolution would lift the embargoes imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and phase out over four months the U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program, which was designed to help ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions.

Council approval would end U.N. control over the country's vast oil wealth and allow the United States and its allies to use the money to pay for the country's reconstruction. France and other council nations want greater accountability to the Security Council to improve transparency, diplomats said.

The United States has been consulting members on the procedures for phasing out the oil-for-food program, a particular concern to Russia whose companies have $4 billion in approved contracts to supply goods for the program. Council diplomats said the five permanent members -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- would likely meet on Monday to discuss this issue.


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