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US to Seek Lifting of UN Sanctions on Iraq

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.

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.

Officials here gave no details of the pending draft. But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the package will be aimed at ending U.N. sanctions against Baghdad, encouraging international reconstruction aid, phasing out the U.N.'s oil-for-food program in favor of a conventional oil sales program, and defining the United Nations' own role in post-war Iraq.

"Our aim is to create the conditions for the return to normal life for the Iraqi people and for Iraq's return to the international community as a member in good standing," he said. "So we've been discussing our ideas on this with other members of the Security Council and coalition allies in order to put together a resolution that can accomplish these goals. We plan on presenting this resolution soon to the council. We want to garner the widest possible support for this resolution in order to ensure its quick passage, so that Iraq's resources and control of Iraq's economic future are returned to the Iraqi people."

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, and differences over how much influence the U.N. should have in setting up a new Iraqi government and rebuilding the economy.

Bush administration officials envisaged 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.