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Iraq's UN ambassador urges lifting sanctions
Updated: 2005-04-12 10:29

Iraq's U.N. ambassador urged the Security Council on Monday to lift the arms embargo and economic restrictions it imposed on Saddam Hussein's government, calling them "shackles and burdens" on Iraq's fledgling democracy.

Samir Sumaidaie said Iraq's new transitional leaders want the council to end the use of Iraqi oil revenue to pay U.N. weapons inspectors and to dismantle other legal and bureaucratic restrictions "which have outlived their relevance."

Officially, Sumaidaie noted, Iraqi imports are still subject to inspection — a restriction that can only be lifted by the Security Council, along with the arms embargo imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

"We must not be kept waiting (and paying) month after month," he told council members. "Iraq is a fledgling democracy committed to the rule of law, both internationally and domestically. As such, it has the legitimate right to expect to be treated like any other member state."

Last month, Sumaidaie complained that more than $12 million annually in Iraqi oil money is going to the U.N. commission charged with chemical, biological and missile inspections and $12.3 million in the next two years to the International Atomic Energy Agency for nuclear inspectors.

The U.N. and IAEA inspectors left Iraq just before the March 2003 U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein, and the United States has barred them from returning.

The two bureaucracies "are doing absolutely nothing that is relevant to Iraq" and the money should be going to the Iraqi people for reconstruction, he said.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said lifting the arms embargo on Iraq should be considered "as we see this political process moving forward," and he said decisions on the future of U.N. inspectors will be made "in the next few months."

The Security Council welcomed the selection of Iraq's transitional leaders and called for the early approval of ministers and a quick start to the drafting of a constitution.

Sumaidaie said the assembly will soon start preparations for writing a constitution and expects to conclude the process by the end of the year with elections for the country's first constitutionally elected government.

"Now that Iraqis have had their first taste of freedom they will not be denied it," he said.

Sumaidaie said the United Nations had appointed Fink Haysom, a South African lawyer who formerly advised Nelson Mandela, to be lead U.N. constitutional adviser for Iraq. U.N. officials had not announced Haysom's appointment because Iraqi leaders had yet to accept it, U.N. Associate spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson, speaking on behalf of the more than 130,000-strong U.S.-led multinational force from 27 countries, urged the United Nations to play a greater role in promoting a national dialogue in Iraq and building consensus on the new constitution.

"We would like to see the U.N. expand implementation of its responsibilities for economic and humanitarian reconstruction assistance," she added, urging a robust U.N. presence in the northern city of Irbil and the southern city of Basra where the world body established a small presence in February.

Sumaidaie criticized the United Nations for "going overboard" with security concerns. "Especially for Irbil and Basra, there is really not justification for such caution," he said.

U.N. envoy Ashraf Qazi said the United Nations hope a review currently under way will lead to an increased U.N. presence in Irbil and Basra.

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