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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
UN tackles Iraq sanctions
Iraqi oil refinery
The resolution would leave decisions on Iraqi oil to the US

US plans for the immediate future of post-war Iraq which offer the UN only a limited role have been officially presented to the Security Council.

The proposals for economic and political reconstruction would end 12 years of UN sanctions - apart from an arms embargo - and be funded by Iraq's oil revenues.

Diplomats from the US and UK - who initiated the military campaign to oust Saddam Hussein as Iraqi leader - spoke of a "constructive reaction" to the proposals at a closed session in New York.

But early responses from other Security Council members were cautious, the BBC's Greg Barrow at the UN says.

The kind of words we heard were that our resolution was forward-looking
US ambassador the UN
John Negroponte

The German ambassador expressed hope that the Security Council would avoid fighting the "battles of the past" and find a unity of purpose again.

The Security Council had been deeply split over the war against Iraq, but members have vowed to work constructively on the post-war resolution.

However, our correspondent says negotiations promise to be long and difficult, with France and Russia likely to dissent.

According to diplomats, the 15 Council ambassadors are spending the weekend outside the city with Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Legal experts are expected to meet on Monday, followed by fresh council consultations on Thursday.

'Not necessary'

The Americans - co-sponsoring the new motion along with the UK and Spain - are seeking a quick decision from Security Council members, but anticipate at least two weeks of negotiating before a vote.

Lift economic embargo
Phase out oil-for-food programme
New body to administer oil revenues
US and UK to administer Iraq for at least 12 months

Under the US proposals, a new body comprising the US and UK - known as the "authority" - would decide how income from the sale of Iraqi oil would be spent.

The UN, which currently controls Iraq's oil revenue, would be confined to an advisory and co-ordinating role.

Speaking after the introduction of the resolution, Gunter Pleuger of Germany - another vociferous opponent of the war - agreed that sanctions "aren't necessary any more", but said that lifting them raised many difficult questions.

He also said clarifications were needed over the role of the UN in the new Iraq - an issue that continues to divide the council after the military victory of US-led coalition forces.

Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the UK spoke of "a decidedly constructive atmosphere" at Friday's session.

" What we're trying to do in the Council and in the coalition on the ground is serve the needs of the Iraqi people and restore Iraq back to Iraqis for their own purposes and their own benefit as quickly as possible," he said.

US ambassador John Negroponte said: "The kind of words we heard were that our resolution was forward-looking. It didn't rehash some of the arguments of the past."

The resolution needs the support of nine of the 15 members of the council to pass, and must not be vetoed by any of the five permanent members.

Weapons inspectors

Although France and Russia have not threatened to veto the new resolution, they have said they want to see a strong role for the UN to give any US-chosen Iraqi authority international legitimacy.

The strong involvement of the international community, via a central role for the United Nations, is indispensable to ensuring its legitimacy
Dominique de Villepin
French Foreign Minister

They also want the UN to follow procedures - opposed by Washington - which would require UN arms inspectors to declare Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction before sanctions are removed.

The draft resolution does not mention the return of UN weapons teams, but does for the first time recognise the coalition as an "occupying power" under international law - a move which the UK ambassador said had "pleased" the council.

In a statement issued on Friday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said that France would take a "constructive" approach to the US resolution, but reiterated his support for a central role for the UN.

"After the emergency phase, establishing a stable, democratic Iraq that is recognised internationally is one of our key priorities," the statement said.

"The strong involvement of the international community, via a central role for the United Nations, is indispensable to ensuring its legitimacy."

Re-starting the economy

The resolution would allow some contracts concluded by the old Iraqi government under the oil-for-food programme to be honoured - a move designed to please the Russians, correspondents say.

An official appointed by the Americans to advise the Iraqi finance ministry, David Nummy, said the lifting of sanctions was crucial to reviving trade and restarting the economy.

"If the world cares about the basic lives of the ordinary Iraqi they will come to their aid by supporting the lifting of sanctions, allowing goods to flow into the country," he told reporters.

The BBC's Greg Barrow
"London and Washington hold the power of balance in Iraq"

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