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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 21:55 GMT 22:55 UK
End Iraq sanctions, says Bush
President George W Bush
Sanctions have been in place for 12 years
UN economic sanctions against Iraq should be lifted now that President Saddam Hussein has been removed from power, US President George W Bush has said.

The embargo was imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and dismantling it would pave the way for Iraq to sell oil to help pay for post-war reconstruction.

A White House spokesman said the US would soon propose a resolution to allow normal trade to resume, ending the UN humanitarian programme which has allowed Iraq to sell oil for basic goods for the last six years.

The end of the nightmare for the Iraqi people and the start of a new day for freedom
George W Bush

It had been expected that sanctions would eventually be lifted, but the BBC's Jon Leyne says it has come as a surprise that Washington wants to move so quickly.

He adds that it sounds like the opening shot of big new fight in the Security Council, which has control over Iraq's oil.

Diplomats there foresee obstacles to lifting sanctions, with the prospect of possible serious opposition from some powerful members.

Tough negotiations

"Now that Iraq is liberated the United Nations should lift economic sanctions on that country," Mr Bush told a crowd of workers at a Boeing aircraft factory in St Louis, Missouri, that makes F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters that have been used in Iraq.

He said Saddam Hussein's regime had "passed into history" and promised the lives of the Iraqi people would be "better than anything they have known for generations".

Iraqi child receives candy at a US checkpoint in Tikrit
Combat operations have diminished
He said emergency aid was now moving into Iraq and that the US would soon be making direct payments to Iraqi doctors and nurses.

Scott McLellan, a spokesman travelling with the US president, said: "We need transition... as soon as possible and help restore a normal trading relationship with the global economy,"

However diplomats at the UN predict a tough round of negotiations in the Security Council if the US pushes for the lifting of sanctions.

Before they can be lifted or suspended, the question of whether Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will have to be answered, Council diplomats say.

The requirement that Iraq demonstrates it is free of WMD forms a central part of the existing UN resolutions.

UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq ahead of the US-led military intervention.

In other developments:

  • The International Red Cross engineers repair a crucial water pumping station in Baghdad serving almost 1m people.

  • A new interim advisory council made up of religious, community and business figures meets for the first time in the southern city of Basra.

  • A leading Iraqi Shia Muslim opposition leader, Abdel Aziz Hakim, returns after from 23 years in exile to a rapturous reception in the city of Kut. He is deputy leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which boycotted US-organised talks on Iraq's future this week

  • The Pentagon says the war in Iraq has cost 20 billion dollars so far and it expects to establish a military headquarters there.

  • In northern Iraq, the the city of Mosul is reported to be extremely tense; latest reports say at least three people have been killed there and several others wounded by gunfire.

  • US marines raid the Baghdad home of an unnamed woman scientist who, Washington says, was involved in Iraqi programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction

  • The US downgrades its national terror alert from high to "elevated"

  • EU foreign ministers meet in Athens to try to work out a common position on the future of Iraq.
New mayor

The US military commander General Tommy Franks has been visiting Baghdad where a new mayor appeared to emerge on Wednesday.

An Iraqi who apparently helped US troops restore local policing, Mohammad Mohsen al-Zubaidi, announced at a news conference that he had been appointed head of the city's new interim local government.

He said the aim of his administration would be to restore law and order and basic services and that he had the support of opposition groups both inside and outside Iraq.

A BBC correspondent in Baghdad says it appears he was appointed by US marines after playing a role in organising the return to work of Iraqi police and other public-service employees.

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