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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 00:14 GMT 01:14 UK

World: Middle East

UK backs end to Iraq sanctions

The British plan envisages a strict inspection regime

The UK is putting forward new proposals to end the United Nations sanctions on Iraq, imposed following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The BBC's Mark Devenport in New York: An attempt to show how sanctions might eventually be suspended
In a significant turnaround aimed at breaking the impasse over Iraq, a draft British resolution at the UN Security Council sets out a timetable for withdrawing the sanctions, subject to Baghdad answering some questions about its weapons programme.

It also calls for strict controls to prevent Iraq acquiring new weapons of mass destruction.

The British change of position means that only the US is now completely opposed to lifting sanctions. France and Russia have long supported an early suspension of sanctions.

However, a US official said the British proposal, which is co-sponsored by the Netherlands, is "the appropriate draft around which the Security Council can begin discussion".

The Security Council's five permanent members - the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia - are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, and the full Security Council would be presented with the proposal before the end of the week.

Clear-cut conditions

Many at the UN see progress on the sanctions issue as a way of getting UN weapons insepctors back into Baghdad. Unscom personnel left six months ago, shortly before US and British airstrikes were launched to punish Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government for failing to cooperate with inspectors.

The British draft says sanctions would only be suspended for 120 days after Iraq completes a set of "key remaining tasks" regarding the destruction of its weapons of mass destruction.

After another four months, the chairman of the new Commission on Inspection and Monitoring and the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency would report to the council on whether Iraq had answered the disarmament tasks set out by inspectors.

The suspension would then be subject to renewal every 120 days, if Iraq performed satisfactorily.

Oil-for-food discussion

[ image: Iraq is allowed to sell oil for humanitarian needs]
Iraq is allowed to sell oil for humanitarian needs
A top UN humanitarian aide will arrive in Baghdad on Wednesday to discuss the oil-for-food deal. Benon Sevan, who runs the UN programme, will meet senior Iraqi government officials.

Under the deal, which was extended in May for another six months, Iraq can sell $5.26 bn worth of oil over six months to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian needs for its people.

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