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[casi] Bush call to lift sanctions on Iraq leaves EU cold

Bush call to lift sanctions on Iraq leaves EU cold

A United States call to lift United Nations sanctions on Iraq drew cool
reactions on Thursday, including a Russian warning against the plan.
Diplomats warned that securing an accord may be difficult.

European Union leaders urged the US to let the United Nations and EU help
rebuild Iraq.  The leaders, eager to bring international organisations back
into play in the Iraq crisis called  for "a central role" for the UN and a
significant EU part in reconstruction that Washington is determined to

Moscow, a fierce opponent of the US-led war, said the US suggestion appeared
"mercenary".  French President Jacques Chirac, who also opposed the war,
insisted that the United Nations must decide exactly how sanctions on Iraq
should be lifted, after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's government.

French President Jacques Chirac (L) shakes hands with United Nations
Secretary General Kofi Annan in Athens on Thursday

The two-day informal EU summit in Athens, meant to welcome 10 new members to
the bloc, sought ways to work with the United States now that the fighting
has passed. Anti-war states France and Germany said they were ready to be

In general, the EU and its leaders gave a cautious welcome to the Bush
suggestion of lifting sanctions on Iraq, but their comments were littered
with words like "conditions" and "modalities", codewords that signalled
there would be no simple wave of the pen to end the 13-year-old sanctions.

 The European Union's Greek presidency said the sanctions should be lifted
once the situation had "normalized" on the ground.

"Obviously, the embargo has to be lifted," Greek Prime Minister Costas
Simitis told reporters after two days of EU meetings in Athens. But before
this happens he said there has to be a "general normalisation" on the

But in Moscow a foreign ministry official said Russia will oppose the
proposal until UN inspectors confirm the country has no weapons of mass

"Regime change in Baghdad is not a condition for lifting economic sanctions
on Iraq," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Some pointed out that it will be difficult to fully lift the sanctions until
a new and internationally recognised government takes control over Iraq.
"We should determine just what the United State is after -- something seems
wrong, the approach is too mercenary," he said.

Chirac, speaking in the sidelines of an EU summit in Athens, also reiterated
his desire to proceed "pragmatically" now the war is all but over.
"Faithful to its principles, France will naturally broach these questions in
a pragmatic manner, case by case," he said, adding that he had discussed the
issues with United Nations chief Kofi Annan.

Asked how France expected to work with the US and British forces in Iraq,
Chirac replied "in the way which will be defined by the UN."

On the issue of lifting sanctions, one diplomat warned, "This issue could
prove very divisive right now. If you lift sanctions you lift the control of
the United Nations in what is going on in Iraq."

The sanctions are the main leverage that Security Council members, including
anti-war France, Germany and Russia, have to persuade Washington to give the
UN a political role in turning shattered Iraq into a prospering democracy.

Analysts say Washington wants to lift the sanctions quickly so Iraq can sell
oil and pay for reconstruction, but UN resolutions say this depends on the
world body certifying that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction. ---
Al Jazeera with agency inputs

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