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Powell Hopes UN Will Lift Iraq Sanctions Soon - 2003-05-16

Secretary of State Colin Powell says he hopes the United Nations Security Council will soon lift sanctions against Iraq. His remarks followed Germany's pledge to work for a U.N. resolution on the matter that will satisfy other council members.

Mr. Powell had much to discuss with Chancellor Schroeder and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. But it was clear that lifting sanctions against Iraq and freeing up the flow of oil to generate revenue for the war-torn country were foremost on his mind.

"It should be possible to come to closure quickly over the next several days or week on a U.N. resolution that will lift sanctions and put in place the authorities necessary for us to begin helping the Iraqi people in a more direct way," said Mr. Powell.

After a half-hour meeting with Mr. Powell, the German Chancellor, eager to repair the frayed ties between Washington and Berlin, signaled his readiness to work with the Americans on the sanctions issue.

"We're of the opinion that the sanctions on Iraq which were put in place some time ago don't make sense anymore, and they should be lifted as soon as possible," he stated. "We both believe that it makes sense that you have to work together at the United Nations in New York and find a common solution."

But despite favoring the lifting of sanctions, Mr. Schroeder gave no indication that Germany would support a U.S.-backed resolution currently being discussed in the Security Council that gives wide-ranging powers to the United States and its allies to administer Iraq and manage its oil.

Later, after a long working lunch with Mr. Powell, Foreign Minister Fischer sought to clarify the German position, saying his country would work as hard as it can to forge a consensus among Security Council members.

"The U.N. draft resolution is a very good basis that we can conduct our discussions upon, and we have mentioned today that we are on the right way to come to a consensus," said Mr. Fischer. "Whether this will be successful, we have to wait and see. Not only the position of the United States and Great Britain is important, but also [that] of the other Security Council members."

Finding that consensus may be difficult. France and Russia, two veto-wielding members of the council, want to suspend rather than lift sanctions on Iraq until U.N. arms inspectors have certified that the country no longer has weapons of mass destruction.

Still, U.S. diplomats traveling with Mr. Powell cited German willingness to cooperate with Washington on lifting sanctions as an ideal way for the two countries to salvage their once close ties.

And the Secretary himself says that, despite different opinions on the Iraq war, Germany and the United States have lots of things that bind them together.

"Disagreements are not uncommon among friends, and these disagreements can occasionally become quite contentious," he said. "We also know what draws us together - shared values, sacrifices together, and working in many parts of the world together now, whether it is the Balkans, in Afghanistan or elsewhere."

But obstacles appear to remain to a true rapprochement between Chancellor Schroeder and President Bush. Their relationship took a nosedive during Mr. Schroeder's re-election campaign last September when the German leader spoke out against U.S. war plans and his then-justice minister compared the U.S. president to Adolf Hitler.