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U.S. warms to suspending sanctions

Powell, left, with Putin: Still outstanding issues on Iraq
Powell, left, with Putin: Still outstanding issues on Iraq

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Powell sought support for draft resolution lifting Iraq sanctions.
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IRAQ DRAFT RESOLUTION
Key points
• Establishes the United States and Britain as "occupying powers" in Iraq for at least a year
• Calls for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint a special coordinator to work with the United States and Britain on establishing an interim government and meeting humanitarian needs
• Calls for Iraqi oil revenues to be put in the fund to pay for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts and the cost of the administration and disarmament of Iraq
• Calls for U.N. members to freeze assets of former Iraqi leaders and transfer them to the fund
• Phases out the oil-for-food program after four months

SOFIA, Bulgaria (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that Washington would consider initially suspending economic sanctions against Iraq, although lifting them entirely would be "the best way."

Russia and France -- both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that opposed war in Iraq -- fear an end to sanctions would effectively hand control of Iraq's immense oil reserves to the United States. They also say U.N. inspection teams should resume its work in verifying Iraqi disarmament.

"As part of the discussion and negotiation process, we will look at the idea of initially suspending sanctions," Powell said at a news conference in Bulgaria, one of the stops on his week-long trip to Europe and the Middle East.

"The important thing is to be able to begin moving oil out of Iraq in due course in order to generate revenue for the Iraqi people."

A revised version of a U.S. draft resolution on Iraqi sanctions is expected to be distributed later in the day. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte said he hoped for a vote on the resolution some time next week.

"We will see what the argument is for suspending sanctions and see if that makes any sense, but our preference is to lift and that's why we put it in the resolution that way," Powell said.

Since the war Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for an international presence in Iraq and for proof that weapons of mass destruction do not exist in Iraq before passing a resolution which would lift U.N. sanctions against Iraq and bring to an end the oil-for-food program.

Powell said: "With respect to Iraq...there are some outstanding issues, and we will be working on these issues in a spirit of partnership and trying to come to a solution."

He added: "We will be working closely in the days ahead to see if we can come to agreement with our other Security Council partners in passing a resolution that we will use to help the people of Iraq live a better life."

Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia did not intend to hamper the U.S. draft, Reuters reported.

"The main thing now is to create a legal basis for broad international involvement in post-war rehabilitation of the country."

"This is our objective. We do not seek to somehow complicate the resolution or to create artificial barriers standing in the way of agreeing a common resolution."

Lifting the sanctions would give the U.S. and its allies the right to sell Iraqi oil and spend the revenue without international supervision.

Russia and France have outstanding oil contracts with the former regime of Saddam Hussein, reached under the oil-for-food program. The fate of those contracts -- which in Russia's case is valued at about $1.5 billion -- remains unclear. Washington says oil contracts are up to the next Iraqi government.


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