Security Council Ends Saddam-Era Iraq Sanctions


The UN Security Council ended this week key international sanctions imposed on Iraq in a major move toward bringing closure on the Saddam Hussein era.

Three council resolutions ended sanctions over weapons of mass destruction and ended the UN oil-for-food program for Iraq. The action will allow Iraq to start civilian nuclear activities, but was intended mainly to highlight political changes, including its new government.

US Vice President Joe Biden and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon led praise for the efforts of Iraq’s democratically elected government while warning that Iraq must make a final peace with neighbouring Kuwait and that major security challenges remain.

The 15-nation council passed one resolution lifting sanctions imposed in 1991 to stop Iraq building nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Weapons of mass destruction were used to justify the US-led invasion in 2003 but never found.

A second resolution formally ended the oil-for-food program which allowed the late Iraqi dictator to use billions of dollars of oil money to buy food and medicine between 1996 and 2003.

A third resolution extended UN protection by six months for hundreds of millions of dollars in the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) which was set up after the 2003 war to handle oil and other revenues.

France abstained in the vote on oil for food vote saying that additional financial guarantees should be provided. The others were passed unanimously.

While the votes concentrated on weapons of mass destruction and the oil for food program, the meeting was intended by the United States as a symbolic recognition of the political changes in Iraq.

Biden told the meeting the Iraqi people have “flatly rejected the grim future offered by extremists.” He said the number of violent attacks was now at a low since the US-led invasion in 2003.

“Iraq is on the cusp of something remarkable – a stable, self-reliant nation,” Biden said.

A Security Council statement welcomed changes in Iraq and “recognizes that the situation now existing in Iraq is significantly different from that which existed at the time of the adoption of resolution 661” in 1990 after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

“The adoptions of these important resolutions marks the beginning of the end of the sanctions regime and restrictions on Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and recovery,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the council.

“Our people will rejoice for having turned a chapter on the aggressive, belligerent and defiant behavior of the previous regime toward international law and legitimacy.”

But the UN leader Ban stressed that Iraq must make efforts to agree a border with Kuwait and to agree on a dispute over war reparations to Iraq if all sanctions are to be ended.

Iraq still pays five percent of revenues from its oil sales into a fund which pays reparations to Kuwait, which has demanded that Iraq pay another US$22 billion.

“Iraq still has some way to go to resolve all outstanding issues with brotherly, neighborly Kuwait,” Zebari said, but he vowed it would “top the agenda” of the new government.

While recognizing the changes, Ban said that “Iraq remains a challenging environment” which will need political and financial support, particularly after the departure of remaining US troops in 2011.

The Iraqi people “continue to struggle with insecurity and appalling violence. They lack jobs and basic services. But today we recognize how far the country has come in key aspects of its journey to normalize its status in the community of nations.”

The meeting started with a minute’s silence for US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Daytona peace accords to end the Balkan wars of the 1990s, who died this week. Biden called him “one of America’s greatest warriors for peace.”

The UN Security Council agreed in February to lift civil nuclear curbs on Iraq after it ratified a number of international agreements, including the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol, which allows for extra international nuclear checks.

Iraq has been applying the accord but it’s parliament has yet to ratify the protocol.

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