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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK
Analysis: End of UN's 'Iraq era'

By Jon Leyne
BBC state department correspondent

Fourteen votes in favour, none against, one not present. So ended the Iraq era at the United Nations.

From left to right: British Ambassador to the UN Jeremy Greenstock, Spanish Ambassador Inocencio Arias and US Ambassador John Negroponte
It was a day of triumph for the 'winners' of the UN vote
For more than a decade this has been one of the most divisive issues in the Security Council.

With and without UN blessing there have been two wars, the most extensive sanctions in history, the deaths of thousands of Iraqis, and many others as well.

Now, finally, the storm has passed. The rest will just be a matter of clearing up.

Element of suspense

This being the United Nations, the vote in the Security Council could not happen without a little last-minute drama.

Syrian deputy Ambassador to the UN Fayssal Mekdad explains his absence at the vote
Syrian officials later explained why they did not show up for the vote

The element of suspense came from Syria.

With the big powers on the Council lined up in favour of the resolution, the Syrian Government decided that it alone needed more time for consultation.

As the Council members milled around in the chamber, there was flurry of mobile phone calls.

Where were the Syrians? Not present, it turned out, so the vote went ahead without them.

Concessions

But the real story of the day was the quiet submission of Russia, France and Germany.

This resolution gives official blessing to an era of the 'benevolent hegemony' of the United States in Iraq, and maybe around the world
The three most powerful opponents of the war decided it was time to make their peace with the United States.

And there is no doubt they have conceded a lot.

Resolution 1483 legitimises the control of Iraq by the slightly sinisterly named "authority". That is a polite euphemism for Washington.

Iraq's oil revenues and most of the rest of its funds will be controlled by the Development Fund for Iraq. While various international institutions have a say, again there is nothing to prevent the US basically doing as it likes.

Washington can dispose of the oil, award development contracts, freeze out the French, should it so desire.

The members of the Council have won some concessions.

There is to be a UN special representative, probably Sergio Vieira de Mello, who will work with the Americans and the Iraqis to help set up a new Iraqi government.

Oil money

The Americans have softened their opposition to the return of UN weapons inspectors, though nothing is likely to happen until the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, retires at the end of June.

West Qurna oil field in Iraq
Companies around the world are vying for Iraqi oil contracts

And then there is the question of the oil money.

More than one whole page of this seven-page resolution is devoted to the so-called oil-for-food programme under which Iraqi oil is sold to pay for humanitarian supplies.

The unspoken subtext is that French and Russian companies will be able to cash in on hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions, of dollars worth of contracts under that programme, before the Americans muscle in.

'Enough is enough'

But there is more to this than just a sordid row over money.

Those opposed to the war have decided, quite simply, that enough is enough.

France and Russia, in particular, want to begin restoring relations with the US and rebuilding their power in the Security Council.

It is not a row that is going to be patched up that easily.

But the US Ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, did, grudgingly, offer a small olive branch.

The US, he said, was appreciative of the "constructive spirit" in which the Council had worked on the resolution.

"We look forward to working closely with all of you to implement this important decision."

That cannot disguise the reality.

This resolution gives official blessing to a new era, an era of what the American right like to believe is the "benevolent hegemony" of the United States in Iraq, and maybe around the world.


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