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U.S. Gets Cautious Backing for Iraq Resolution

France and Germany have indicated their willingness to compromise over a U.S. resolution to lift sanctions and rebuild Iraq, despite lingering questions about a limited U.N. role.

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Germany's Ambassador to the U.N. Gunter Pleuger says clarification is still needed on some points in the U.S. resolution on Iraq.

The United States introduced a resolution in the Security Council on Friday to lift 12 years of trade and financial sanctions against Iraq. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte explained the eight-page resolution, co-sponsored by Britain and Spain in a closed Security Council meeting on Friday. The U.S. termed the debate "constructive".

Both French President Chirac and German Chancellor Schröder hinted they would not oppose the U.S. proposals. Speaking after a trilateral summit with Polish President Kwasniewski and Chirac, Schröder said, "we are ready for pragmatic solutions. I think one can come to a satisfactory conclusion. All sides will be ready to move to do so."

Chirac -- who threatened to use his veto power to block a resolution authorizing the U.S.-.led war on Iraq the last time -- was also more conciliatory. "At this stage I confirm the disposition of France to start discussions in an open and constructive spirit," he said. "War is one thing, peace-time management is another."

Germany, France question dissolving oil-for-food program

However Ambassadors to France and Germany raised pointed questions in particular about the limited U.N. role contained in the resolution, the omission of the future of U.N. inspections and the phasing out of the U.N. oil-for-food program over a period of four months.

German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger questioned whether four months was enough to dissolve the multibillion-dollar program. France’s Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere also said he wanted to know more about how the oil-for-food program would be phased out.

Some $13 billion from Iraq’s past oil revenues are now in the program, administered by the United Nations. Whatever is not spent over four months would be deposited into the new "Iraqi Assistance Fund" to meet humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, rebuild the country’s economy, repair its infrastructure and other civilian purposes. However it remains unclear whether all contracts in the pipeline would be honored.

The fund would have an advisory board that would include officials appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan as well as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and others. The group would be in charge of auditing expenditures, but decisions on where to spend the money would be made mainly by the U.S. and Britain.

EU official criticizes U.S. control of oil revenues

EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Poul Nielson said the resolution appeared to allow Washington to appropriate Iraq’s oil, adding, "I think the United States is on its way to becoming a member of OPEC," referring to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Aware of such criticism, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told London’s Channel 4 news that oil had to be sold in the open market at prevailing prices.

"Every single dollar or dinar of the revenue goes into the Iraqi Assistance Fund," he said. "There is no question whatsoever of favoring American or British, or French or Russian oil companies."

German Ambassador Pleuger also said there was need for clarification about the new U.N. coordinator to be appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Anan and expected to coordinate humanitarian activities and support reconstruction and work with the U.S. and Britain in Iraq. "The question is, what would be his responsibility in real terms?," Pleuger asked.

Britain, U.S. play up resolution

The resolution also does not call for a return of U.N. weapons inspectors as several countries have demanded and that has formed the basis of the last 16 resolutions on Iraq.

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said that U.N. inspectors still had a role in Iraq, namely to ensure in the future that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. "We will come back to that, but that must not happen in this resolution," he said.

However officials said France and other Security Council members were pleased by the resolution's admission that the U.S. and the U.K. were "occupying powers" with the international obligations implied by that.

Greenstock described as "positive" that the resolution endorses the "exercise of responsibility" by the U.S. and Britain for an initial period of 12 months. "The Security Council is happy that we accept that we are occupying powers. That lays the fundament for a clear, political discussion," he said.

Despite lingering questions, the U.S. is confident that the resolution will be approved and is pushing for a vote by June 3 when the U.N.’s current program on Iraq’s oil exports expires.

"A number of the delegations noted that they wanted to take a pragmatic and a constructive approach, so I would say that I feel that most delegations saw this as charting a way forward. Certainly they had questions," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said.

Compiled by DW-WORLD staff from wire reports

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