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War Opponents Back Lifting Iraqi Sanctions

The United Nations Security Council voted to lift sanctions against Iraq on Thursday, as leading European opponents of the war to oust dictator Saddam Hussein backed a resolution sponsored by the United States.


The foreign ministers of Russia, France and Germany met in Paris to discuss the U.N. resolution.

The U.N. Security Council voted 14 to 0, with one abstention, to pass a U.S. resolution ending 13 years of sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Syria, the only council member to abstain, said it was not given enough time to study the text before the vote.

"It is an extremely important restoration of council consensus," Britain's U.N. ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, told the Reuters news agency. Britain and Spain co-sponsored the resolution along with the United States.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin had signaled late Wednesday that France, Russia and Germany were all prepared to support the drive to end sanctions against Baghdad, despite reservations over giving the United States and Britain sweeping powers in Iraq, including control over the country’s vast oil supplies.

Keen to repair ties

"Even if this text does not go as far as we would like, we have decided to vote for this resolution," de Villepin said at a press conference in Paris, joined by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Russian Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov.

All three nations are keen to repair ties with the United States after breaking with Washington over its decision to wage war in Iraq.

Since Saddam Hussein’s regime has been toppled, Washington has argued, the sanctions should be lifted as soon as possible to help speed the reconstruction of the war-torn country. But several European nations have held out, hoping for an increased role for the United Nations in administrating Iraq.

The resolution would lift all sanctions except an arms embargo and also end the strict U.N. controls on the Iraqi economy imposed as part of the oil-for-food humanitarian

program, which would be phased out over six months.

U.N. "back in play"

De Villepin admitted the resolution was not totally to Paris’ liking, but said that, at the very least, the United Nations was “back in play.”

Fischer also reiterated Berlin’s opposition to the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq. “Our attitude towards war is unchanged,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying. “We don’t have anything to take back.”

For it’s part, Russia backed down from a demand that U.N. inspectors return to Iraq to make sure the country was free of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Washington used Baghdad’s alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction as the main reason for launching its military campaign against Iraq. But even weeks after the end of the war, coalition forces have yet to find evidence of such weapons.

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