The Bush administration says it welcomes the vote in the U.N. Security Council to reform sanctions on Iraq. At the same time, the White House is issuing a challenge to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer praised the Security Council decision to overhaul the sanctions program, calling it "a step forward for the Iraqi people. The president believes that firm, focused controls must remain on the government of Iraq until it complies fully with its U.N. obligations."
The unanimous vote in the council was a victory for the Bush administration, which pressed the need to keep the sanctions in place with revisions.
The council voted to make it easier to get humanitarian goods into Iraq. But the newly adopted resolution also contains a long list of items that need U.N. approval before they can be shipped to Iraqi soil. All are goods that could conceivably have military use, such as telecommunications equipment.
The goal is to tighten the military embargo while easing the flow of supplies the Iraqi people need such as food and medicine. Mr. Fleischer said the U.N. took the needs of Iraqi civilians into account. He urged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to do the same.
"Iraq's government has an opportunity to prove that it seeks the same benefits for all its citizens," said President Bush's spokesman. "The focused controls on military-relevant goods and simplified procedures for civilian goods eliminates excuses for inaction or evasion of U.N. sanctions on Iraq."
The sanctions were put into effect after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. They cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors verify that Baghdad is not developing weapons of mass destruction or the means to deliver them.