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U.N. Security Council ends major sanctions on Iraq

From Jomana Karadsheh and Joe Sterling, CNN
Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari takes his seat at Wednesday's United Nations Security Council meeting.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari takes his seat at Wednesday's United Nations Security Council meeting.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The sanctions were imposed during the Saddam Hussein era
  • The oil-for-food program ends, as does the Iraqi Development Fund
  • Joe Biden chaired the U.N. Security Council meeting
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(CNN) -- In what is being called a "milestone" for Iraq's future, the U.N. Security Council voted Wednesday to free the Baghdad government from sanctions that started during the Saddam Hussein era.

"The adoptions of these important resolutions marks the beginning of the end of the sanctions regime and restrictions on Iraq's sovereignty, independence and recovery," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the council.

"Our people will rejoice for having turned a chapter on the aggressive, belligerent and defiant behavior of the previous regime toward international law and legitimacy."

One resolution ends the oil-for-food program and another ends sanctions relating to weapons of mass destruction. A third ends the Iraqi Development Fund as of June 30.

The move is a major step for Iraq toward regaining full sovereignty and improving its standing in the international community.

The country will be able to have free and unrestricted international financial and trade dealings and to handle its own oil revenues. And it will be able to start a civilian nuclear power program if it is interested.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who chaired the Security Council meeting Wednesday, praised Iraq's progress toward democracy and meeting its international obligations.

Biden issued a statement saying the "Security Council welcomes the positive developments in Iraq," including its forging of democracy, its development, and the performance of security forces.

"Politics has emerged as the dominant means for settling differences and advancing interests," Biden said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the development a "milestone."

"Its people have known tremendous hardship," he said. "They continue to struggle with insecurity and appalling violence. They lack jobs and basic services. But today we recognize how far the country has come in key aspects of its journey to normalize its status in the community of nations."

Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, triggering the Gulf War. In 2003, the United States led an invasion of Iraq, citing Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction activities as one of the reasons. But, none of those weapons were discovered.

While Wednesday's vote ends sanctions imposed on Iraq from the days of the Hussein regime, other differences remain between Iraq and Kuwait.

Zebari said Iraq is committed to settling those unresolved issues bilaterally with Kuwait and his country is "committed to fulfill its remaining obligations" under Chapter 7 of the U.N. sanctions.

"Iraq still has some way to go to resolve all outstanding issues with brotherly, neighborly Kuwait," he said. "There has been positive cooperation and exchange between our two governments to resolve and settle all pending issues between our two countries, emanating from Saddam Hussein's aggression and invasion of Kuwait in 1990."

Unresolved issues include demarcation of the Iraqi-Kuwait border and efforts to locate missing Kuwaitis and third-party nationals, and continuing to pay war reparations.