Current Iraqi Sanctions Could Be Extended
The foreign ministers of Britain, France, Russia and the United States talked about UN sanctions against Iraq in Budapest on Tuesday. A senior US official did not rule out an extension of the current system, reported Reuters.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news conference that the ministers had a good discussion.
"We are hard at work in New York at the UN on the nature of a rollover resolution and you will see the results of these consultations in the near future," he added.
The US official, asked if the oil-for-food program might continue in its present form, said: "We'll see what they do in New York and how they get it to resolution."
The oil-for-food program, by which money from oil sales funds essential imports under UN supervision, would theoretically lapse if the UN Security Council does not pass a resolution in some form by next Monday.
The United States, anxious to placate Arab public opinion on the effect of the sanctions, wants to ease controls on Iraqi imports of civilian goods while tightening the restrictions on imports of goods with a possible military purpose.
Russia and Iraq have opposed proposals presented by the United States and Britain. Iraq says the United Nations must either scrap the sanctions or extend the current system.
The senior US official, who asked not to be named, said the ministers -- Powell, Robin Cook of Britain, Hubert Vedrine of France and Igor Ivanov of Russia -- agreed in general.
"They reconfirmed their agreement on the general approach of controls on the sale of weaponry and equipment for weapons of mass destruction to Iraq but allowing the sale of civilian goods for the civilian population to go through," he said.
"They looked at the work that we have to do and they decided, once they'd reached the basic understanding, to refer it to our delegations to work out a text that will accomplish their goals," he added.
Asked if they would clinch a deal in time, he said: "We have to. There has to be some sort of resolution by Monday."
France said on Tuesday it had submitted a compromise proposal to avert a deadlock within the United Nations over the British-American plan.
Russia is advocating that the council take six months to work out a comprehensive plan leading towards the lifting of the sanctions rather than rush through a narrower plan now -- a position similar to that voiced by Iraqi leaders.
But the United States and Britain are pushing to get a "smart sanctions" resolution adopted by June 3.
According to the Washington Post newspaper, even if the “smart sanctions” are approved, the new sanctions system may prove impossible to effectively implement. And even if they worked, say critics, the United States would still be lacking a serious strategy for dealing with President Saddam Hussein.
The smart sanctions plan was one of the first major foreign policy initiatives of the Bush administration, championed by Powell during his first foreign trip, a tour of the Middle East.
The idea was to replace the current UN sanctions regime, which is collapsing, with one that would allow Iraq more trade in consumer goods while tightening control over its exports of oil and imports of arms and other strategic materials.
In particular, the Bush administration hopes to establish UN control over the oil that Iraq now ships, mostly illegally, to neighbors Syria, Jordan and Turkey, and to deprive Saddam Hussein of the up to $3 billion a year that he now earns outside the UN-controlled escrow fund for Iraqi oil revenue, said the paper.
Despite the high-profile start, the sanctions initiative seems to have been shoved down the list of administration priorities.
Even if the new sanctions are approved, UN officials worry that they may prove impossible to administer, the paper added.
Iraq has threatened to cut off trade with countries that accept the system, meaning that Jordan, Turkey and Syria would have to be compensated for potentially huge losses. Baghdad might also respond by halting all of its legal oil exports, which could disturb world markets – Albawaba.com
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