The United Nations Security Council has lifted restrictions prohibiting Iraq from pursuing a civilian nuclear program, in a step to help restore the country to the international standing it held before its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The council also took two other significant steps to recognize progress in Iraq.
In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Security Council said it was lifting restrictions imposed in 1990 after then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, because the situation is dramatically different today than when the measures were taken.
The council noted that Iraq now belongs to international treaties and conventions on nuclear non-proliferation and chemical and biological weapons, and has the confidence of the International Atomic Energy Agency. With the measures now removed, Iraq is free to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.
The council also voted to return control of Iraq's oil and natural gas revenues to the government as of June 30, 2011, and to end all remaining activities under the Oil-for-Food program.
The United States holds the rotating presidency of the council this month. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who leads on Iraq policy in the Obama administration, chaired Wednesday's high-level session. Vice President Biden said Iraq has made tremendous progress.
"Today as we take stock of all the Iraqi people have endured and accomplished and all that still must be done, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Iraq is on the cusp of something remarkable - something remarkable - a stable, self-reliant nation; a just, representative and accountable government; and a positive force for peace and stability in the region," said Vice President Biden.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari thanked the council, saying the removal of the restrictions marks the beginning of the end of the sanctions regime and limitations on Iraq's sovereignty, independence and recovery.
"Our people will rejoice for having turned a chapter on the aggressive, belligerent and defiant behavior of the previous regime towards international law and legitimacy," said Zebari.
While the council's actions have lifted several resolutions which are enforceable under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, the council did not lift all of them. Iraq must still fulfill obligations towards Kuwait to resolve outstanding issues from the 1990 war including border and property disputes and the fate of missing Kuwaitis. Minister Zebari said this would be the top priority of the new Iraqi government, which he said he expected to be announced in a matter of days.