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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Q&A: Lifting sanctions on Iraq
The United States, Britain and Spain are jointly proposing a new Security Council resolution which would lift UN sanctions against Iraq and outline a role for the UN in the country's reconstruction. BBC News Online answers key questions about the resolution.

What does the draft resolution contain?

The resolution calls for the lifting of sanctions which were imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. These sanctions were modified over the years to make it easier for Iraq to sell its oil in order to buy food and medicine. Now it is proposed to drop them completely.

The draft resolution proposes that a new entity - known only as the Authority and initially comprising the occupying powers, America and Britain - will decide how this money is spent.

It proposes that an international advisory board be set up to include UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. This would oversee the sale of oil and ensure that it was being used for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

How have the negotiations on the resolution gone?

The response from France and Russia - the two permanent members who refused to approve a second resolution before the war - to a first draft was on the whole positive, though each had specific worries about the text.

Several concessions were offered by the co-sponsors during the negotiating process over a new draft. On 20 May, a third draft was circulated for consideration. Ahead of an expected vote on 22 May, France, Russia and Germany indicated that they would back the resolution.

The UN role appears to have been boosted. A UN special representative would work with the occupying powers on moving towards a new Iraqi Government and the UN would "revisit" the mandate of its weapons inspectors. There is, though, no mention of sending the inspectors back into Iraq as France and Russia had requested.

The occupation by US and British forces would last "until an internationally recognised, representative government is established by the people of Iraq and assumes [their] responsibilities". Previously the US had wanted the occupation endorsed for 12 months with a possible renewal.

The UN's humanitarian oil-for-food programme would be phased out over six months, not four. Such an extension would be important to Russia, which has a major share of the contracts approved under the programme.

Iraq's massive debts would be dealt with by multilateral systems such as the Paris Club - thus dispelling Russian fears that the US would invalidate some of its claims.

Iraq would not enjoy immunity from claims on its oil and revenues in the case of ecological accidents such as oil spills - a concession to France and Spain.

Why is the resolution being proposed now?

Because the war has created a completely new situation which has to be addressed. The US and UK want an umbrella of UN approval to the new reality, as it is called, and that the UN should have a "vital role" but not the leading role.

In any event, there has to be Security Council action because otherwise sanctions would remain and that is obviously creating problems. Construction and electrical generation equipment, for example, cannot be sent to Iraq under existing rules.

What will the lifting of sanctions mean for the Iraqi people?

It should be the start of real reconstruction. Trade and travel will be possible. Without the ability to get goods into Iraq, there can be little done. It should therefore mean a rise in the standard of living. Iraq will be able to sell its oil and buy not just the food and medicine to which they have been restricted, but all the equipment they need for rebuilding.

Is this about controlling Iraq's oil?

The resolution seeks to reassure the Iraqis by setting up an advisory board to monitor oil sales. So certainly the issue of oil is taken into account. At some stage, oil money is going to have to be used to pay for rebuilding and which companies get that money might prove contentious as those are likely to be mainly American and other foreign firms. The question of repaying Iraqi debt has not been resolved. Russia alone is owed some $8bn.

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