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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
New resolution addresses key issues

By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

Passage of the new Security Council resolution on Iraq will mean a new era for a country which has suffered from 13 years of sanctions and a generation of oppression by Saddam Hussein.

UN vehicle in Iraq
The new draft envisages a greater role for the UN in Iraq
Now the sanctions will be lifted and a process will begin under which the occupying powers will administer Iraq, spending its oil money on rebuilding the country, until a new government can be elected in one to two years.

In the meantime, an interim Iraqi administration will be put in place with limited executive powers though with the task of paving the way for a new constitution and elections.

Work to agree on the administration has been delayed by the chaos in post-war Iraq and another conference of Iraqis has been put off until July.

Review of occupation after 12 months

The breakthrough came when France, Russia and Germany, which all opposed the war, indicated that they would accept the latest American, British and Spanish draft after a clause was inserted reviewing the implementation of the process after 12 months.

Earlier they had drawn back from confrontation with the US and UK after concessions which emphasised the role of the UN in Iraq.

This role was expanded from a rather vague supporting position in the first draft to a much more central function in the second, allowing a UN special representative to be involved fully in the setting up of new institutions.

Weapons inspectors might be allowed back

And it was made clear that weapons inspectors might be allowed back in at some stage. Dr Hans Blix, the chief of the inspections organisation, is leaving in June and this might be an opportunity to re-examine the inspectors' mandate.

It is an open diplomatic secret that the Americans do not particularly like Dr Blix and that they want to leave decisions on the inspectors until he has retired.

A change of mandate is referred to in the text without being specific as to what it might be. But it could be that they would check on finds made by the occupying forces.

However there is no requirement that sanctions have to stay until Iraq is declared free of weapons of mass destruction as has been the case previously.

Classic diplomatic move

It was a classic diplomatic manoeuvre - make concessions which you probably knew were going to have to be offered and then let your critics claim they have made progress.

It seems to have worked and it shows that to some extent it is back to diplomatic business at the UN.

The wider hope is that this agreement will also heal some of the wounds inflicted by the disagreements over the war, though France and Russia will say that their acceptance does not confer retrospective legitimacy on the war.

The sense among British officials in London was that France and Russia had taken a strategic decision to work with the US and UK. "The negotiation has not been the bloodbath which some had predicted," was how one diplomat put it.

Quite how far peace has really broken out between members of the Security Council will be tested over the next few weeks and months.

One test will be the G8 summit in Evian at the beginning of June. There the major players, including Presidents Bush and Chirac, will be gathered.

Other key changes to the resolution which helped get agreement included:

  • A clause calling on member states to "contribute to conditions of stability and security." This is designed to give UN cover to the multinational stabilisation force now being organised.

    Iraq oil refinery
    Russia is owed billions of dollars in oil contracts with Iraq

  • The Assistance Fund (into which the oil money will go) has been given a name change to the Development Fund, making it less colonial.

    An International Advisory Board acting as watchdog is now also called a Monitoring board to strengthen its position.

  • A billion dollars will be transferred into the fund at once from the existing Oil for Food programme.

    This is to give the fund something upfront.

    The Oil for Food scheme will continue for another six months, not four.

    Existing food contracts will be honoured though frozen until further decisions if not regarded as necessary now.

  • Iraq's oil will be protected from creditor claims until 2007 except in the case of oil spillages.

    This timeframe is designed to give Iraq some financial space before issues of its unpaid debt arise.

    These debts will be dealt with on an international basis, something aimed at satisfying the Russians.

    The spillage exception is a concession to France and Spain worried about oil leaks onto their beaches.

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