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Iraq rejects French sanctions proposal



By CNN Correspondent James Martone

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq on Saturday rejected French amendments to a British proposal to ease U.N. sanctions now being discussed in the Security Council.

"My first reading of the French project shows it is identical to the British proposal," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told the Iraqi News Agency INA.

The British proposal, which the United States has endorsed, calls for an easing of sanctions on civilian goods that Baghdad is allowed to import. But it requires tighter enforcement at the borders of neighboring countries to prevent the illegal smuggling of oil and potential weapons-related material.

Iraq has rejected the British proposal outright, and France, which is sympathetic to Iraq, has been trying to get Baghdad to agree to various amendments. Russia has also presented a proposal.

Iraq's trade minister Saturday told reporters his country was prepared to deal with the consequences of its decision to reject the British proposal and any other proposal that changes the present sanctions regime.

Baghdad said any change to the sanctions is a U.S. plot to prolong them, and said the 11-year-old embargo must be lifted altogether.

Iraq is under extensive trade sanctions for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Those sanctions cannot be lifted until Iraq is declared free of weapons of mass destruction.

U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in December 1998, ahead of a four-day bombing campaign by the U.S. and Britain. The inspectors have not been allowed back into the country.

Britain and the U.S. hope to have the Security Council approve the proposal by June 4, when the current six-month phase of the council's oil-for-food program in Iraq expires.

They are aiming to have the new resolution wrapped into the oil-for-food extension. Under that program, Iraq exports crude oil to pay for humanitarian goods and the money is kept in an escrow account at the U.N.

Iraq has threatened to pull out of the oil-for-food program if the resolution is adopted.








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