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US House Calls for End of Sanctions Against Iraq - 2003-05-14

The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously approved a resolution calling on the United Nations to end economic sanctions against Iraq. Lawmakers say they want to make clear to the U.N. Security Council that the U.S. government is united on the need to end restrictions so Iraq's people can move ahead with reconstruction.

The non-binding resolution calls for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the sanctions and urges U.N. member countries to trade with post-Saddam Iraq.

Its key sponsor, Republican Congressman Nick Smith, says he introduced the resolution to send a clear message to the U.N. Security Council. "So members of the security council would understand that the United States government speaks with a single voice on Iraq," he says. "The coalition returned political freedom to the Iraqi people, but with these sanctions the U.N. is withholding the opportunity for economic freedom and recovery from Saddam Hussein's tyranny."

A similar version of the resolution, expressing the "sense of Congress" on the sanctions issue, is expected to be approved by the Senate.

Reconstruction in Iraq was also in the spotlight at a congressional hearing Tuesday at which lawmakers heard from retired General Jay Garner, who served as coalition administrator in Iraq before he was replaced this week.

Some lawmakers are critical of the way the United States is handling immediate post-war recovery in Baghdad and other cities, and skeptical about longer-term U.S. planning.

In his testimony, presented to the committee on videotape, General Garner did not respond directly to criticisms, but chose to focus on successes since the end of major hostilities. "There is no humanitarian crisis. Now, there are humanitarian issues. And there are some serious humanitarian issues. But this organization we have over here, we are working through all of those," says Mr. Garner. "But the point is, the crisis that was predicted, and I thought there would be a crisis to be frank with you, the crisis that was predicted never materialized, so we are very fortunate there."

However, Republican Congressman Christopher Shays expressed concern about a range of problems, focusing on security. "Hard lessons learned in Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti and Afghanistan on the need to quell emergent lawlessness seem to have fallen out of the battle plan during the dash to Baghdad," he says. "The military mechanics of basic security and free-flowing humanitarian assistance need to be brought forward quickly before vicious thugs and radical mullahs can occupy the moral high ground so nobly gained in battle."

General Garner listed as priorities the repair of Iraq's electricity-generating capacity to pre-war levels, improving food and fuel distribution, salary payments for civil servants, and perhaps most importantly improving security.

General Garner is due to leave Iraq by mid-June. He has been replaced by Paul Bremer, a career diplomat who formally assumed his duties on Tuesday.

Among those defending General Garner against criticism was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He told a Washington audience that General Garner had done a "superb job" and described as untrue media reports that the change was occurring because of administration dissatisfaction.

Congress will be focusing even more sharply on Iraq this week when the House International Relations Committee examines U.S. policy in post-war Iraq. And two subcommittees will look at the Oil-for-Food program and efforts to freeze and repatriate to the Iraqi people assets of Saddam Hussein.