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NEWS: US And Russia Still Far Apart On Iraqi Sanctions

Thursday June 17 3:19 AM ET

US And Russia Still Far Apart On Iraqi Sanctions

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - In an attempt to get the Security Council's Iraq
policy back on track, Britain, backed by the United States, has proposed
suspending the U.N. oil embargo against Baghdad.

But Russia said the British move did not go far enough.

The 15-nation Security Council has been deadlocked since U.S.-British
bombing raids against Iraq last December on how to resume political and
disarmament ties with Baghdad.

Chief U.S. representative Peter Burleigh said Wednesday that Washington
``was pleased'' with a new British draft resolution, co-sponsored by the
Netherlands, that would suspend sanctions on Iraqi exports, such as oil, if
Baghdad answered remaining questions on its weapons of mass destruction.

``We have some problems with small parts of it, but by and large it is
something the U.S. can support,'' Burleigh said.

But council diplomats doubted the draft would break the impasse. It keeps
tight controls on all goods imported to Iraq, a situation some blame for
strangling Baghdad's economy.

Iraq, which has criticized more liberal French proposals, is bound to reject
the new draft. Baghdad says it has no more unconventional weapons and wants
a complete lifting of the sanctions, imposed after its troops invaded Kuwait
in 1990.

Under a 1991 cease-fire resolution after the Gulf War, in which a U.S.-led
force drove Iraq from Kuwait, the council linked disarmament to a lifting of
the oil embargo.

Washington in the past said it could not consider the oil embargo in
isolation from other demands. Its reaction to the draft indicates a slight
softening of that position.

Russia's U.N. ambassador Sergei Lavrov called the British draft as taking
``a very large step backward'' from the 1991 resolution by proposing a
suspension rather than a lifting of the oil embargo.

France, Russia and China back rival resolutions that would suspend or lift
sanctions for Iraqi imports as well as exports after a new arms inspection
commission is set up and running.

But diplomats said it was significant that Britain as well as the United
States for the first time mentioned a partial suspension of sanctions at a
time Iraqi relations with the council were at an all-time low.

The new draft retains provisions from earlier Anglo-Dutch proposals that
allow foreign oil companies to invest in Iraq's oil industry and removes the
cap on how much oil Iraq can sell, currently at $5.26 billion every six

It would also maintain ``effective financial controls'' to make sure Iraq
did not reacquire dangerous weapons, which means maintaining a U.N. escrow
account into which oil companies pay monies. The United Nations then pays
suppliers for goods Iraq wants to purchase.

And it would set up a new U.N. Commission on Inspection and Monitoring
(UNCIM), that would replace the current U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) but
use its arms experts and resources.

Arms inspectors left Baghdad on the eve of the December air strikes and have
not been allowed to return since then.

The British draft demands cooperation and compliance on disarmament of
Iraq's dangerous weapons for about eight months before any sanctions could
be eased. It would also require a new council vote every 120 days to
continue the suspension.

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