Sanctions and UN role in Iraq under consideration

The UK, US and Spain have drawn up a draft UN resolution designed to see the end of international sanctions in Iraq.

The text of the plan is being circulated among UN security council members today and the US has said that it would want to see a deal before June 3 - the expiry date of the Oil-for-Food programme under which Iraq was able to sell oil to purchase food and other humanitarian supplies.

After a Council meeting today, Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram, who holds the presidency in May, said: “I’m sure that most Council members will wish to transmit this to their authorities and the authorities would have the whole weekend to study it.

“So I expect that come early next week, some sort of process of consultations is likely to begin on the draft resolution.”

However, there will be problems bringing the French and Germans on board – as they favour a wider role for the UN and the continuance of sanctions until a UN weapons inspectors decree that Iraq is free of WMDs.

At a press conference yesterday with Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar, US president Bush said: "The regime that the sanctions were directed against no longer rules Iraq. And no country in good conscience can support using sanctions to hold back the hopes of the Iraqi people."

Mr Blair and his foreign secretary Jack Straw have made efforts to rebuild relations with Russia and France over recent weeks – but both, the Russians particularly, have steadfastly refused to budge.

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said yesterday that the UN had a "vital role to play", but that the Coalition "would not be subservient to the UN or vice versa".

He added that the "reality on the ground" was that there were a quarter-of-a-million Coalition forces inside Iraq and "no one was seriously suggesting" that they should be handed over to UN control.

He added that there would be "a lot of diplomatic traffic and international conversation" in the weeks to come.

But the US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in an upbeat mood, told a meeting of the EU's Foreign Policy Association that security council members would "not fight old battles" – as happened over the draft second resolution ahead of the Iraqi war.

Elsewhere, more than 7,000 Iraqi prisoners have been released from a POW camp in Umm Qasr, while another 2,000 remain in custody, US military officials in Kuwait City have said.

It was revealed that 3,781 individuals signed parole agreements that they are required to carry with them at all times. Under the terms of the agreement the individual promises not to take up arms against coalition forces as long as they are in Iraq, and if they return to their former military unit they agree not to conduct combat activities. Violations may result in prosecution as a war criminal.


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