Russia delays UN vote on Iraqi sanctions
Russia has asked for a delay until next week of a U.N. Security Council vote on an overhaul of U.N. sanctions against Iraq aimed at easing the flow of goods to Baghdad, diplomats said on Wednesday.
The five permanent Security Council members with veto power, including Russia and the United States, introduced a resolution on Monday and had hoped for a vote on Wednesday.
First Syria, a council member, wanted a delay and then Russian envoys told colleagues that President Vladimir Putin wanted to take a final look and sign off on the new plan.
Russia, which helped negotiate the new plan, asked for the vote to be postponed until Monday but raised no new objections, the diplomats said.
Central to the new program is a 160-page "goods review list" of items that may have dual military and civilian use and have to be evaluated separately before they can be exported.
Goods not on the list can go to Iraq after review by U.N. officials. Military items continue to be banned outright.
Currently, any council member can block a contract to Iraq and the United States has put $5 billion worth of goods on hold. Russia, among others, have made sure many of their contracts are not on the list and are waiting for Washington to release them after the resolution is adopted.
Syria also raised misgivings about the new plan, with its diplomats first saying they needed further instructions from Damascus, which was studying the resolution that includes hundreds of pages of attachments.
But privately diplomats said Syria cited the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians, questioning why it should vote quickly on Iraqi sanctions when the council refused to condemn Israel for its offensive in the West Bank.
Although the vote can go ahead without Syria, which does not have veto power, the United States and others wanted to preserve council unity. Ironically, Syria itself has been cited by diplomats and oil analysts for violating sanctions by illegally importing Iraqi crude oil.
The new plan promises to be the biggest change in sanctions procedures since the U.N. oil-for-food deal began in December 1996, an exception to the embargoes imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
This program allows Iraq to export oil and buy food, medicine and a host of other goods, with the proceeds placed in an escrow account from which suppliers are paid. The program, renewed every six months, expires on May 29. (Reuters)