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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 22:03 GMT 23:03 UK
UN approves US Iraq plans
UN Security Council in session (archive)
Syria left its chair empty
The United Nations has overwhelmingly approved a resolution lifting economic sanctions against Iraq and giving its backing to the US-led administration.

Fourteen of the 15 Security Council members voted to adopt the resolution, including France, Russia and Germany - all countries which opposed the war on Iraq.

Syria - the sole Arab state represented on the council - boycotted the meeting.

Voting took place nine weeks to the day after US-led coalition forces invaded Iraq at the start of a military campaign that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

It is time for the Iraqi people to benefit from their natural resources
John Negroponte
US Ambassador to the UN

The changes to earlier drafts included an expansion of the role of the UN - a key demand of Russia and France, two countries with the power of veto.

The resolution asked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to appoint a special representative to help set up an interim Iraqi government. Mr Annan said he would do so "without delay".

However, The BBC's Jon Leyne at the UN says the organisation's role in Iraq will not be a substantial one.

The occupying powers, the US and Britain, are left firmly in control of Iraq and its oil "until an internationally recognised, representative government is established".

Our correspondent adds that the resolution sets a legal framework for the future of Iraq, and will give the go-ahead for companies wishing to invest in the country.

Baghdad 'lukewarm'

We would have preferred if a fully sovereign transitional Iraqi government were installed
Adnan Pachachi
Pre-Saddam foreign minister

In Iraq itself, the BBC's David Bamford says people are getting a confused message - the end of sanctions means that Iraqis can get income through oil revenues, but the money will be spent on their behalf by foreigners.

Our correspondent in Baghdad adds that politicians eager to form an interim government, are lukewarm about the turn of events.

"We would have preferred if a fully sovereign transitional Iraqi government were installed," said elder statesman Adnan Pachachi, who was foreign minister before the Baath Party took over in 1968.

"We believe that the Iraqi are capable to administer the affairs of the country during this period.

"But, anyway, now that the Council is adopting this resolution we have to try to live with it as best we can and I think there are some positive elements in it."

Empty seat

After the vote US ambassador to the UN said: "The lifting of sanctions marks a momentous event for the people of Iraq. It is time for the Iraqi people to benefit from their natural resources".

US and UK to maintain most of the power
Occupying forces to remain till new government formed
Situation to be reviewed within a year
UN to appoint special representative to help form new government
Sanctions to be lifted, though arms embargo will stay
Russian and French companies will be able to complete lucrative contracts
Return of UN weapons inspectors to be considered
$1bn Iraq Development Fund to be launched

French ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said the resolution was not perfect, but added: "The Iraqi people must now take control of their future."

A Syrian envoy said his country failed to turn up for the vote because the government wanted a little more time to consider the draft resolution.

"We requested a few minutes and these minutes were not given to us," deputy Syrian ambassador Fayssal Mekdad told reporters.

Mr Mekdad said the ambassador himself had been recalled to Damascus to discuss the resolution.

Our correspondent says Syria's absence suggest the country is in a state of turmoil over Iraq.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, the Security Council was the scene of bitter wrangling between the pro- and anti-war camps, and there was even talk of the collapse of the UN system.

But now, says the BBC's Barnaby Mason, the UN is back at the centre of attention.

The US needed sanctions lifted in order to export Iraqi oil legally and to use the proceeds for reconstruction, while the anti-war camp had to recognise the reality of US and British control on the ground.

Iraq's massive debts will be dealt with by multilateral systems such as the Paris Club - thus dispelling Russian fears that the US would invalidate some of its claims.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Sanctions reduced millions of Iraqis to desperate poverty"

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