Tags: U.N. | Approves | Change | Sanctions | Against | Iraq

U.N. Approves Change in Sanctions Against Iraq

Tuesday, 14 May 2002 12:00 AM

The resolution was the result of months of negotiations between the United States and Iraq's staunch ally on the panel, Russia. Also, in a move that surprised many, Syria voted for the resolution revamping the oil-for-food humanitarian program. To no one's surprise, however, Syria first criticized the United Nations for dealing in what it called double standards between Arab nations and Israel.

Iraq has been under international sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The humanitarian program was approved in 1996 to ease hardship on Iraqi civilians, but it was not accepted by Baghdad leaders until the following year.

The new resolution allows Baghdad to continue to buy relief supplies with part of its oil revenues during the next six-month phase of the humanitarian program, beginning at the end of the month, while setting up a new system to improve contract approvals. The oil revenues go into a U.N.-administered escrow account.

The new plan allows all requested goods into Iraq that are not on a goods review list of 300 pages. Instead of going to the Security Council sanctions committee, the requests will be processed directly through the U.N. Office of the Iraq Program, which runs the oil-for-food plan.

Up until now, most contracts went through the committee where any member could put a hold on what it regarded as proscribed goods or "dual-use" items that could be used for civilian and military purposes, meaning items that had the potential for aiding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The United States and Britain have holds placed on more than $5 billion in goods, 90 percent held by Washington.

The new measure sets up a strict system for processing the contracts. With this resolution, applications to ship goods to Iraq will first go to the U.N. Office of the Iraq Program, which will forward them to weapons experts of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency. They will determine whether any item is covered by the sanctions or included on the banned goods review list.

All applications for military goods would be rejected, and experts would pay close attention to the dual-use items.

If the application in question has an item on the list, the U.N. monitoring group and experts from International Atomic Energy Agency will provide the sanctions committee with an assessment of the humanitarian, economic and security implications of the approval or denial of the item in question, including the risk of diversion for military purposes. Strictly civilian, humanitarian goods are to sail through the process.

Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe of Syria, the only Arab member of the 15-member council, pointed before the vote to the long-standing sanctions against Iraq and recalled how Israel recently refused to allow U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's "fact-finding" team to visit the Jenin Refugee Camp with impunity.

"What is required for Syria now is to vote for a draft resolution which will extend the sanctions imposed on the Iraqi people, an Arab people who have suffered a lot," said the Damascus envoy as the voting approached.

"In view of the situation, Syria totally rejects this policy of double-dealing, which has clearly manifested itself during this period whereby Israel conducted its aggression against the Palestinian people," he said.

Noting that the council "failed to dispatch the fact-finding team" it approved of, he asked fellow council members, "Is there any more double-dealing like this one?

"My country and my delegation will follow the implementation of this resolution closely and its implications on the Iraqi people and will follow this matter when reviewing this program after six months," Wehbe said. Syria was voting for the draft "out of its keen concern for the real unity of the Security Council and ... in an attempt to give the Security Council a new opportunity and chance to reconstruct and retrieve its credibility and despite the difficult and critical position that Syria takes now," in apparent anticipation of criticism from other Arab nations.

What surprised many over Syria's vote was that its attempts to amend the resolution, sponsored by the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – were beaten back. An abstention or a vote against was widely anticipated.

Damascus, among other items, wanted to assert Iraq's right of self-defense in face of "no-fly-zone"-related attacks by Britain and the United States. The council never specifically approved the patrols launched to thwart Iraqi massing of troops and armament for further military operations.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, after the council vote, was quick to point out to reporters, "I think this is important news in terms of the council having a unanimous view with respect to the issue of the export control regime that we have just adopted.

"We believe this enhances the likelihood and strengthens the ability of humanitarian and purely civilian items to reach the Iraq economy with the minimum of impediment, while at the same time, enabling the export control regime to focus on dual-use items, the review of those items, which might contribute to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."

Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov agreed with Negroponte. "This is about simplifying the humanitarian program and making it more efficient and therefore we are satisfied."

However, he also pointed out the resolution, "doesn't change the scope of sanctions, but it makes it easier for all civilian goods to go directly to Iraq. This includes not only humanitarian supplies like food and medicine but all civilian goods that are necessary to support and maintain the failing Iraqi infrastructure and some economic projects.

"I have to say that the resolution, or any other modification of the humanitarian program which might be agreed in the future, would not be able to solve problems of the Iraq economy and that can only happen with lifting of sanctions," said Moscow's envoy.

He said the next step is to continue to follow up on the Iraq resolution passed last November, which paved the way for this latest measure. That included, Lavrov said, "ambiguities" that were in the December 1999 resolution establishing a U.N. monitoring group, to replace the U.N. Special Commission on the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Russia abstained from that vote, citing the ambiguities.

It was United Nations Special Commission inspectors who fled Baghdad on the eve of allied bombing a year earlier and were the last U.N. weapons inspectors allowed into the country.

"Now that we have finished one part of the [2001] commitment on the [goods review list] we expect the second part of the commitment, namely the comprehensive approach, to be taken up by the council," Lavrov said, reminding reporters that Russia's draft resolution for that step remains on the table for discussion in the council.

The latest Office of the Iraq program weekly report, which came out Tuesday, reported that on May 9, Iraq ended its oil export suspension to show solidarity with the Palestinian people, which had been announced last month, and began loading crude at its Mina Al-Bakr terminal.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The resolution was the result of months of negotiations between the United States and Iraq's staunch ally on the panel, Russia. Also, in a move that surprised many, Syria voted for the resolution revamping the oil-for-food humanitarian program. To no one's surprise,...
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Tuesday, 14 May 2002 12:00 AM
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