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Iraq: UN Security Council Unites To Lift Sanctions

  • Robert McMahon

France, Russia, and Germany, which helped block moves seeking UN approval to launch war against Iraq, now say there is a legal basis to support the country's U.S-led reconstruction. They joined an overwhelming majority of Security Council members in approving a resolution -- Resolution 1483 -- that grants broad powers to a U.S.-British authority. A UN special representative will have independent powers to help guide the political and economic reform process.

United Nations, 23 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Ending months of divisions, the UN Security Council has approved a resolution aimed at rehabilitating Iraq after war and 13 years of punishing sanctions.

France, Russia, and Germany joined the United States and Britain in approving the resolution to lift nonmilitary sanctions against Iraq. Ambassadors from these countries, which clashed in prewar debates, agreed there was now a legal basis for the international community to support Iraq's reconstruction under U.S.-British authority.

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock hailed the result yesterday: "The United Nations has recovered its position on this important subject. This is a good day for the United Nations."

The resolution puts Iraq's oil revenues into a new development fund held by the Central Bank of Iraq. These funds are to be spent mostly on reconstruction and humanitarian needs at the direction of the occupying powers, the United States and Britain.

France and Russia had sought greater powers for the United Nations over Iraq's oil and in the general rebuilding effort. But they expressed satisfaction that a UN official will be closely involved in efforts to form an Iraqi government.

At the urging of France, Russia, and Germany, the resolution also recognizes the need for the Security Council to decide on the mandates of UN weapons inspections. The inspectors have not been allowed to return to postwar Iraq.

France's UN ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said such changes, along with pressing needs in Iraq, figured in his government's decision to back the resolution. "We still consider that the use of force was not legitimate. This is not the question," he said. "But we have a new situation now on ground and there is urgency in Iraq to help the Iraqi people in the political and in the economic field to reconstruct the country."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had also challenged the legitimacy of the U.S.-led war, now says the international community has a legal basis for acting in Iraq.

Annan said he will name a special representative for Iraq shortly. In addition to a political role, the representative will be responsible for coordinating reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, guiding legal and judicial reforms and promoting human rights. These duties are similar to those of the UN representative in Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Annan told reporters after the council vote that it is important for Iraq to set up self-governing structures as soon as possible. "Iraqis must be responsible for their own destiny. They must be in charge of their own political future and also be responsible for their natural resources, so really we hope to work with the Iraqis and the coalition authority to establish a government," he said.

U.S. officials did not agree on any timetables for transferring control from the coalition to Iraqi authorities. The resolution says the Security Council will review the situation in 12 months' time. Negroponte promised the occupying powers would issue quarterly reports to the council on their efforts.

The resolution says that the authorities will use Iraqi oil revenues for reconstruction, infrastructure repair, the continued disarmament of Iraq, the costs of Iraqi civilian administration, and other purposes "benefiting the people of Iraq."

Negroponte could not provide any further details on what such expenses would entail. But he stressed they were subject to oversight by an international board to assure they were serving the Iraqi people. "I think there will be the utmost transparency in all this. I just can't lay it out for you at this very moment, although clearly the bulk of expenditures are going to deal with the restoration of the economy and the reconstruction of Iraq," Negroponte said.

Iraq's annual reconstruction costs are estimated to be as high as $20 billion. Its oil exports are not expected to meet such costs initially.

The U.S. Congress has approved $2.5 billion for reconstruction and initial contracts have already been awarded. There are also billions of dollars in contracts for goods secured under the oil-for-food program. The resolution allows Annan to prioritize previously approved contracts to meet the immediate needs of Iraqis as the program is phased out during the next six months.

UN agencies are also raising hundreds of millions of dollars in a flash appeal to make sure there is enough food, medicine, shelter, and other supplies in the next several months.

In addition, the resolution immunizes Iraqi oil sales against claims by creditors until 2008 to make sure the country's massive debts do not burden the reconstruction effort.

Senior international relief officials spelled out the humanitarian and reconstruction challenges to the council in a public session that followed the vote on the resolution.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, affirmed that Iraq has averted a humanitarian catastrophe. But he outlined some concerns: "Things could still turn wrong if security is not improved. More has to be done. Second, there are urgent humanitarian needs in specific sectors. And third, there are, beyond humanitarian emergencies, immense needs for repair and upgrades of infrastructures."

The deputy U.S. ambassador to the UN, James Cunningham, told the council that Washington is deploying additional U.S. military police and the coalition is stepping up efforts to confiscate weapons. Cunningham said there is a team in Iraq reviewing security, law enforcement, the justice system, and prison issues. It plans to make urgent recommendations for action.

He said the coalition is looking forward to more help because the new resolution invites international cooperation in restoring stability and security to Iraq.

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