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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Tough talks loom over Iraq oil
Iraqi man stands next to a picture depicting war in the rubble of the defence ministry
Freeing up oil exports would help pay for reconstruction

French President Jacques Chirac has said it is up to the UN to decide when and how to lift trade sanctions against Iraq, as diplomatic moves intensify over the future of Iraqi oil.

Mr Chirac was speaking after US President George W Bush called for an end to the UN's oil-for-food programme, which limits the amount of oil Iraq can export and controls imports into the country.

The American calls are likely to lead to a tough round of negotiations at the Security Council, diplomats predict.

Lifting the sanctions imposed on Iraq 12 years ago would unfreeze the country's oil revenues which could then be used for the reconstruction of the country, as the US wants.

But the BBC's world affairs correspondent Mark Doyle says some Council members are wary of limiting their influence on the situation while the US has control on the ground.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia would not support the "automatic" lifting of sanctions unless it was confirmed that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

On Wednesday, the European Union issued a draft declaration calling for the UN to play a central role in rebuilding Iraq.

The bloc also said it was ready to help to play a significant role in the reconstruction efforts.

Inspections

UN resolutions demand that Iraq prove itself free of weapons of mass destruction before sanctions can be lifted.

PUNISHING IRAQ
August 1990: Sweeping sanctions imposed after invasion of Kuwait, including ban on all trade, flights to and from Iraq, embargo on oil exports and arms sales
April 1991: Conditions set out for lifting sanctions including: elimination of weapons of mass destruction, recognition of Kuwaiti border, setting up of compensation fund

UN weapons inspectors - who were withdrawn from Iraq days before the US-led invasion - say their work has not been completed.

The BBC's Greg Barrow at the UN says some Council members are insisting that until the inspectors are allowed back into Iraq there can be no progress on a new resolution seeking to lift sanctions.

So far, Washington has not invited the monitors back into Iraq.

The Security Council will broach the issue of lifting sanctions next week, the Associated Press says.

According to US Ambassador John Negroponte, a resolution has not yet been drafted.

"The specifics are still being discussed among agencies in Washington," he said.

Differences

One key issue likely to emerge when sanctions are debated is the role the UN will play in post-Saddam Iraq.

France, Russia and Germany - who all have seats on the Council and firmly opposed the war - say the UN must play a central role in any Iraqi transition.

Britain has also said the UN has a central role in the future of Iraq. But analysts say there could be disagreements over the precise definition of this role.

Both the UK and the US have argued that, having deposed Saddam Hussein, they have a right to play a leading role in the future of Iraq.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jacky Rowland
"Jacques Chirac is still making it clear where he stands"



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Who will control Iraq's oil?
17 Apr 03  |  Middle East


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