Foreign ministers from the United States, Russia, Britain and France were attempting on Tuesday to break the deadlock on US-British Iraqi sanctions proposals during a NATO meeting in Budapest, diplomats said.
Of particular interest would be talks between US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, whose country has the strongest objections to a draft resolution Britain circulated to the 15 UN Security Council members last week, said Reuters.
France appears to be in agreement on the resolution in principle but its envoys are stressing unity among the council's key members, an indication they would want to put off a vote if Russia continues to balk at the draft, the envoys said on Monday.
The US-British measures ease sanctions on civilian goods to Iraq but expands a list of military-related supplies.
Ivanov, whose country is not a NATO member, is expected to be in Budapest on Tuesday for a meeting of the NATO-Russia permanent joint council, the agency added.
China, the fifth permanent UN Security Council member with veto power, will not be represented in Budapest.
Ambassadors from the five council powers met late on Monday at UN headquarters, but apparently made no progress.
France has submitted a series of amendments, some of which the United States and Britain have accepted, but it is uncertain is whether a vote can be held soon.
The United States and Britain want to get the resolution adopted by May 31, before the current phase of the UN humanitarian "oil-for-food" program expires on June 3.
That program, which regulates oil sales from and goods going to Baghdad, was meant to ease the impact of sanctions, imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
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 it worked, say critics, the United States would still be lacking a serious strategy for dealing with President Saddam Hussein.
The 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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