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U.S. Seeks to Suspend Iraq Sanctions Early - 2003-05-15

U.S. forces arrest 200 Iraqis during a raid on a village near Tikrit - ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s hometown. U.S. officials say one of those arrested was on the list of the most-wanted former Iraqi officials.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington is willing to consider suspending United Nations sanctions against Iraq before they are actually lifted. Amy Katz has more on that and on other developments in Iraq.

Secretary of State Powell was on a visit to Bulgaria Thursday when he said the Bush administration would prefer a new United Nations resolution that would lift sanctions against Iraq entirely which the UN is preparing to debate. But, Mr. Powell said Washington would consider a compromise measure allowing the U.S. and Britain to start exporting and selling Iraqi oil. He said Iraq’s accumulating oil reserves should be sold quickly to generate revenue. Iraq has been allowed to sell some oil under the so-called “oil-for-food” provision of the sanctions to buy food and medicine for the Iraqi people.

At the same time the new U.S. civil administrator for Iraq Paul Bremer said one of his top priorities is to root out the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. He made the comments at his first news conference in Baghdad Thursday.

“Shortly, I will issue an order on measures to extricate Baathists and Baathism from Iraq forever. We have and will aggressively move to seek to identify these people and remove them from office. We have hunted down and will continue to deal with those members of the old regime who are sabotaging the country and the coalition’s efforts.”

Mr. Bremer also said security is a top priority and he acknowledged the country has a “serious law and order problem.”

At the Pentagon Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that is the main issue for U.S. forces in Iraq.

“Security remains the number one priority in Iraq. The combatant commander will be increasing the number of military police in Baghdad in the days immediately ahead. To strengthen the coalition presence, the commander is bringing elements of the First Armored Division into Iraq.”

Also on Thursday, Um Qasr became the first Iraqi city to return to Iraqi control since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Saddam Hussein regime. British forces formally gave control to a temporary town council during a brief ceremony. Elections for a permanent council are to be held next week.