Page last updated at 08:05 GMT, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

UN gives Iraq economic protection

Iraqi soldier on patrol near the Dora oil refinery in Baghdad (2 November 2008)
Oil and gas exports account for 95% of the Iraqi government's revenue

The UN Security Council has passed a resolution to stop foreign governments, companies or individuals seeking compensation from Iraq during 2009.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said claims would be settled in due course, but that Iraq needed protection while its economy remained fragile.

Kuwait is among those expected to ask for reparations for damage caused by Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule.

Iraq's assets are currently shielded by a resolution which expires next week.

The resolution also gave a mandate to US-led multi-national forces in the country. However, the mandate is set to be replaced by separate agreements between Iraq and the individual countries concerned.

'Legitimate claims'

The US and British-drafted resolution, passed unanimously by the Security Council on Monday, seeks to protect during the next year a special, internationally-administered development fund for Iraq, which holds more than $20bn (13.5bn) of its oil revenues.

We need the assurances that Iraq's resources and financial assets are available for the country's recovery programme
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari

The BBC's Matthew Wells in New York says that without UN protection, the fear is that governments or corporations will seek reparations for damage suffered under Saddam Hussein, and take legal action against the current government.

The new resolution means that the UN is, in effect, guaranteeing the security of Iraq's cash reserves and assets during 2009, our correspondent says.

In exchange, the Iraqi government is promising to deal in due course, with reparations claims from countries like Kuwait, which was occupied by Iraqi forces during the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

Iraq's foreign minister said it was "fully committed to the resolution of all legitimate claims", but that the Iraqi economy remained in a delicate state, alongside its emerging political institutions.

"We need the assurances that Iraq's resources and financial assets are available for the country's recovery programme," Hoshyar Zebari told the Security Council before the vote.

"Without such assurances, the functioning of the Iraqi government and the current stability could be seriously endangered."

Progress made on all fronts during 2008, should not be undermined by economic setbacks in the coming year, Mr Zebari added.

Oil and gas exports account for 95% of Iraqi government revenue.

The Security Council also decided on Monday to review its resolutions on Iraq beginning in 1990.

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