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US, Britain, Spain to Propose Lifting of Iraq Sanctions - 2003-05-08


President Bush says there appears to be a change of mood at the United Nations, and countries seem willing to work together to help the people of Iraq. Mr. Bush spoke at a joint news conference with a key ally in the effort to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

The president invited Prime Minister Aznar to the White House to personally thank him for his support in Iraq. But he made clear there is still much work for the allies to do, both in Iraq and at the United Nations.

Mr. Bush said the United States, Great Britain and Spain will introduce a resolution in the Security Council to lift sanctions on Iraq imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. He said the sanctions were targeted at a regime that no longer rules Iraq, "and no country in good conscience can support using sanctions to hold back the hopes of the Iraqi people."

France and Russia have said they will not formally lift sanctions until the U.N. certifies Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. Still, Mr. Bush said he believes the mood in the Security Council has shifted, and the deep divisions so evident in the pre-war debate have eased. "The read [the informal assessment] from at least our diplomats at the United Nations is that the atmosphere that existed prior to the war has changed," said Mr. Bush.

Prime Minister Aznar also spoke in positive terms. He said he discussed the sanctions issue Tuesday at the U.N. with Secretary General Kofi Annan. Speaking through an interpreter, he said it is time for everyone to help the Iraqis. "We confront the future with optimism, from a founded hope for the Iraqi people in freedom," said Mr. Azner.

The talks between the two leaders focused largely on the reconstruction of Iraq. But at their joint news conference, they also spoke of cooperation in the war on terrorism and the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

President Bush took the opportunity as well to express regret for the deaths of two Spanish journalists killed when U.S. forces fired on a Baghdad Hotel. He was asked if the shooting was a mistake. "I think war is a dangerous place," he said. "And I think that nobody would kill a journalist intentionally."

Throughout the news conference, the two men focused on the close ties between the United States and Spain. But during the war, Prime Minister Aznar faced protests at home. President Bush praised him for his courage, and noted that just hours before their meeting the State Department announced plans to add three groups fronting for the Basque nationalist group, ETA, to its list of organizations with ties to terrorism. The Spanish prime minister had requested such action.