The UN Security Council appears to be on course to approve a resolution that lifts nearly 13 years of sanctions against Iraq and endorses a U.S.-led administration of the country. U.S. officials say they will call for a vote tomorrow, although council members still had some concerns about the scope of the coalition's authority. But the measure has gone through extensive revisions to emphasize a UN role and it is expected to be passed this week.
United Nations, 21 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The latest U.S. proposal for lifting Iraq's sanctions appears to address many of the concerns of key members of Security Council members about the UN's role and the handling of Iraqi oil revenues.
Council members said after a four-hour meeting yesterday that talks were advancing in a constructive atmosphere. The U.S. and British ambassadors said there was wide support for the resolution and that a final version would be voted on tomorrow.
After extensive revisions, the latest draft resolution calls for the appointment of a UN special representative, a figure with considerable authority, who would work with the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi officials on setting up a new government.
The resolution proposes that UN officials sit on a board that will monitor the accounts of a new development fund for Iraq, into which oil revenues would flow. It also says the Security Council will review the mandates of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq.
These provisions mark significant changes from the original draft and reflect the concerns raised by Russian, French and German members of the council. Those countries were the leading critics of the U.S.-led war to oust Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.
At the same time, the resolution gives the occupying powers controls over how Iraq's oil revenues are spent and endorses their lead role in reform and reconstruction efforts.
The U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, said late yesterday that there should be no concern about how Iraq's oil revenues are handled. "We think the key point is the transparency of this operation, and we think the mechanisms that we built into the resolution will ensure that oil revenues are dealt with in a completely transparent manner," he said.
The latest version of the resolution, also sponsored by Britain and Spain, calls for winding down the oil-for-food humanitarian program after six months, instead of four as originally proposed.
That leaves more time for countries such as Russia to make sure its contracts already approved under the program -- valued at about $4 billion -- are fulfilled.
The United States earlier agreed to amend the resolution to say that Iraq's debts would be dealt with by multilateral systems such as the Paris Club, a group of official creditor states. But the version now before council members also calls for Iraqi oil revenues to be immune from legal claims until 2008.
Russia and France were still pressing for changes but it was not immediately clear if they would obstruct the vote. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov yesterday said Moscow wanted to add specific references to a peacekeeping force.
Russia's UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, also said he expected there to be more clarification on the issue of UN inspectors. "We have to have an understanding on how we close the disarmament files of Iraq in accordance with the resolutions, with UNMOVIC and IAEA present," he said.
U.S. military officials have signaled they may soon allow experts from the UN's nuclear agency into Iraq. At a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the U.S. military does not object to the return of UN inspectors to Iraq.
Rumsfeld said that General Tommy Franks, in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq, has "no problem" with inspectors returning. "I have checked with General Franks, the combatant commander, and his attitude is that he has no problem with their going in. And that's been communicated within our government," Rumsfeld said.
One issue not expected to be resolved was whether to put a time limit on the authority of the U.S.-led coalition. Council diplomats said France was seeking such a change but Negroponte said Washington would not agree to time limits. He said the coalition's authority should end when its powers have been transferred to an internationally recognized government of Iraq, as stated in the draft resolution.
Time limits were among the recommendations urged by the Open Society Institute, a prominent nongovernmental organization, at a news conference yesterday at UN headquarters. The institute's founder, George Soros, and the director of its Washington office, Morton Halperin, said the United Nations must have more control of the postconflict rehabilitation process in Iraq.
Halperin, a former State Department official in the Bill Clinton administration, said a time limit for the renewal or termination of the resolution was essential. "We think that the supremacy of the United Nations, the Security Council, in managing the transition to a representative Iraqi government ought to be made clear in the resolution, that this is a responsibility for the UN and not for the occupying powers," he said.
Soros welcomed some of the U.S. modifications to the draft resolution, such as an enhanced UN role and underlining the transparency of the Iraqi development fund. But Soros said his organization planned to form an entity called Iraqi Revenue Watch to monitor the use of Iraq's oil exports to finance reconstruction projects approved by the U.S.-led occupying forces.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said earlier yesterday he would act swiftly to name a special representative after the resolution is adopted.