The Bush administration says it will soon present a draft U.N. Security Council resolution to lift international sanctions against Iraq and clear the way for that country to return to the international oil market. Secretary of State Colin Powell says it is time to set aside pre-war disputes at the U.N. and help the Iraqi people.
The U.N. resolution is critical to U.S. hopes for an early return to economic normalcy in Iraq. And the drafting of the omnibus measure is being accompanied by a worldwide diplomatic blitz by administration officials aimed at securing its speedy passage.
Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the draft at the U.N. late Wednesday with Secretary-General Kofi Annan after meeting earlier in Washington with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.
Mr. Powell dispatched assistant secretary Kim Holmes to Moscow and Berlin to discuss the measure with those two Security Council member states, while deputy secretary Richard Armitage is to take it up this week with the Pakistani government in Islamabad.
State Department officials are providing no details of the pending draft. But they say it is designed to end U.N. sanctions against Baghdad, encourage international reconstruction aid, phase out the U.N.'s oil-for-food program, and to define the United Nations' own role in post-war Iraq.
Passage of the resolution is not expected to be easy, given lingering hard feelings between the United States and some key council members from disputes in the run-up to the war.
Talking to reporters after his closed door meeting with Mr. Annan, Secretary Powell said it is time to set aside past arguments in the interest of helping Iraq's people.
"Whatever happened in the past is in the past. We are not now talking about a matter of war. We are talking about a matter of peace," he said. "We're talking about a matter of hope. We're talking about helping the Iraqi people. And this resolution has that as its singular purpose: to help the Iraqi people to obtain a better life for themselves and their children, and to put in place a democratic form of government representing all the people of Iraq that will live in peace with its neighbors and be a responsible nation among the family of nations."
One major point of contention is expected to be over how much influence the U.N. should have in setting up a new Iraqi government and rebuilding the economy. Bush administration officials envisage a "coordinating" role for the U.N., while some on the council favor a lead role for the world body.
The U.N. oil-for-food program, which fed 60 per cent of the Iraqi population under Saddam Hussein, is due to expire June 3 and the United States would like to see a new resolution in place by then that regularizes the Iraqi oil industry.
Iraq's overall economy has been hobbled by layers of U.N. sanctions first imposed in 1990 after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.