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Resolution Lifting Iraq Sanctions Seen As Move to Unify UN Security Council - 2003-05-22

During the heated debates that preceded the war in Iraq, the U.N. Security Council was deeply divided. Now, some diplomats say the adoption of a Security Council resolution lifting nearly 13 years of economic sanctions against Iraq signifies an effort to restore council unity.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the vote to lift all but an arms embargo against Iraq.

He says he will act swiftly to appoint a special U.N. envoy who will have independent but limited powers in the creation of an interim Iraqi government.

When speaking to reporters, the secretary-general refused to look back. And he would not answer questions about whether the resolution legitimizes the U.S. and British-led war in Iraq.

"I think the discussions have [showed] in the past weeks and today is for us to move forward and tackle the issues that we have to [tackle] on the ground in Iraq," he said. "And I think everyone is looking forward and we should focus on that, and, as I have indicated, the resolution does provide a legal basis and I don't want to get into the debate of, is this a post-facto-legitimization?"

France, Russia and Germany voted in favor of the measure after a series of compromises. The final text offers some concessions to critics while granting the United States and Britain broad control over Iraq's political structure and oil revenues.

Gunter Pleuger, the U.N. ambassador from Germany, which opposed the war, says the Iraqi people should not suffer because of divisions in the Security Council.

"The war that we did not want, and the majority of the Security Council did not want, has taken place," he said. "We are now in a new situation. We can not undo history and we are now in a situation where we have to take action and take decisions for the sake of the Iraqi people."

Meanwhile, as diplomats try to heal the rift, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is in Paris for the G8 Summit, is scheduled to meet with French, German and Russian officials, among other U.S. allies, to discuss Iraq.

The compromise resolution did not resolve all controversial issues. The Security Council is expected to revisit the mandate of U.N. weapons inspectors.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said Thursday that London sees a potential role for U.N. arms experts in Iraq.

The Bush administration opposes the return of U.N. chemical and biological weapons inspectors, but may allow a small number of U.N. nuclear experts to return to Iraq.