U.S., Britain postpone U.N. vote on Iraqi sanctions
By Andrea Koppel
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and Britain said Monday they will postpone a United Nations Security Council vote on a new U.N. sanctions regime against Iraq in order to gain more support from Russia.
The U.S.-British plan, known as "smart sanctions," seeks to ease restrictions on civilian goods to Iraq, while tightening a financial and military embargo.
Rather than face a Russian veto on the resolution, both the United States and Britain said they would extend the current Iraqi oil-for-food program for up to five months.
"We are unable to obtain Russian agreement to the specifics during this period, despite the fact that Russia had agreed to endorse, at the beginning of June, the resolution that embodied the political direction," State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday.
He added, "It's clear that the remaining differences will not be resolved by tomorrow (when the vote was due to take place)."
Boucher said the extra time would help the council "work on the specifics, both in terms of getting Russia on board" with developing a final list of goods that would still be banned in Iraq and with other elements of the resolution.
Last month, the council agreed unanimously to extend the oil for-food program for 30 days while they put the final touches on the revamped sanctions regime.
Both U.S. and British officials said Monday that Russia was the main impediment to the new sanctions because of Moscow's close relationship with Iraq. They also said Russia refused to engage with fellow council members on developing a plan.
"Iraq has, through the Russians blocked the new sanctions," one Western diplomat said.
The diplomat also pointed out Russia's outright contention that the sanctions hurt their commercial relationship with Iraq.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell last week, and in a phone conversation between the two men Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia would not support the sanctions because it was not in Moscow's interest to do so. Russia threatened to veto the resolution.
"It is really quite shocking how blatant they are," the diplomat said.
Officials acknowledged that they still also need support from Iraq's neighbors for the plan -- chiefly Jordan and Syria. Jordan imports all of its oil from Iraq at a discount, and is wary of any new sanctions regime that might put their economy at risk. Syria continues to illegally pump Iraqi oil through a pipeline between the two countries.
Last month, Iraq stopped oil sales through the U.N. oil-for-food program in protest of the proposed sanctions, and has threatened to do the same to its neighbors if they cooperate with the tighter border controls called for in the plan.
Boucher said it was important that Iraq's neighbors are protected against economic retaliation from Iraq.
"We'll have to work out mechanisms in the agreement -- work out a framework in the resolution or some other mechanism," Boucher said. "So that these states are allowed to continue to do what they need to do vis-a-vis their trade with Iraq, and particularly in civilian goods for the people of Iraq."
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