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UN Security Council Debates Lifting Iraq Sanctions - 2003-04-17

The current president of the United Nations Security Council says council members are actively looking for ways to lift sanctions on Iraq.

The United States has called for an end to the crippling economic sanctions the United Nations imposed on Iraq after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. But Russia has objected, saying the sanctions are specifically tied to U.N. resolutions demanding Iraq's disarmament, not the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. Russia says it is up to U.N. inspectors to determine that Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction.

Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, who currently presides over the Security Council, says the United States has yet to formally present to the Security Council a proposal to lift the sanctions. But he says council members, bitterly divided over the U.S.-led war in Iraq, are already debating how to interpret the criteria for lifting sanctions while achieving unity among the members.

"The Security Council is in intense dialogue among its members to establish the conditions under which some of the resolutions of the Security Council regarding Iraq ought to be discussed and possibly revised, modified, or whatever the Council decides to do," he said. "This dialog is very intense and is taking place right now."

Mr. Zinser has scheduled Security Council meetings to discuss the future of the U.N. oil-for-food program and disarmament inspectors next Tuesday. The chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix will brief the Council. Mr. Zinser says the Security Council must also begin considering the issue of U.N. military observers on the Kuwait-Iraq border and the difficult matter of reaching a consensus on the United Nations' role in rebuilding Iraq, a responsibility which, he says, belongs to the United Nations.