Security Council members raised many legal and technical questions Friday after the United States presented a resolution aimed at ending more than a dozen years of U.N. imposed sanctions against Iraq. The proposal, endorsed by Britain and Spain, asks the council to authorize British and U.S. control of Iraq's economic and political development for at least a year.
The proposal calls on the Security Council to recognize the "specific authorities, responsibilities and obligations" of Britain and the United States in Iraq as occupying powers under international law. The "provisional authority" requested would give the British-U.S.-led coalition broad control of Iraqi oil resources.
The resolution sets up a special "Iraqi Assistance Fund" to use oil money to pay for humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Iraq, phasing out the current oil-for-food program over four months after its June 3 expiration. The program has used Iraqi oil revenues to provide food and medical supplies to 60 percent of the Iraqi people since its inception in 1996.
As envisioned by the current resolution, the United Nations and other international groups such as the World Bank, would monitor the way oil revenues are spent.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the initial reaction of members was positive.
"They thought our resolution was forward-looking. It did not rehash some of the arguments of the past," he said. "A number of the delegations noted that they wanted to take a pragmatic and constructive approach."
Ambassador Negroponte noted many questions concerned complex technical and legal issues that must be explored. He says there was also much interest in the U.N. role in Iraq.
The resolution endorses a role for a special U.N. coordinator for Iraq, but limits U.N. efforts to humanitarian and reconstruction assistance coordinated through the interim authority. Many council members, including France, Germany and Russia, members that vehemently opposed the war in Iraq, have called for a central role for the United Nations.
France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, praised the resolution for its ambition and transparency in spelling out how the sale of Iraqi oil would be handled. But he said the role of the United Nations is one of the proposal's more controversial aspects.
"We also think the role of the U.N. coordinator or special representative should be enhanced, particularly in the political field," he said. "There is also a question on how the council will monitor the whole process."
The resolution makes no mention of U.N. weapons inspectors. Some Security Council members, including Russia, say sanctions cannot be removed until U.N. weapons inspectors declare Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction. But the United States says the coalition is responsible for the weapons search.
Legal and technical experts will begin meeting Monday to work out issues raised by council members before ambassadorial consultations on the resolution begin Wednesday. Members say they expect a resolution to be passed before the June 3 oil-for-food deadline.