The Security Council Friday unanimously allowed Iraq to sell limited amounts of oil to help soothe complaints that the U.N. embargo imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait was punishing common people rather than Saddam Hussein and his regime.
The measure would allow the sale of $2 billion worth of oil during the next six months to raise cash to buy humanitarian items.
In an ambiguous statement issued after the vote, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz called the resolution a U.S. public relations move and attempt to thwart “the prospects of lifting the whole economic sanctions and to infringe on the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Iraq.”
He did not accept or reject the plan. Iraq wants all U.N. sanctions to be lifted.
The United States and Britain have been fighting against lifting the embargo entirely until Iraq dismantles what authorities say is its huge program to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. France and Russia, which have concluded oil-related economic deals with Iraq, are pushing to ease the sanctions.
The United States and Britain have accused Hussein of deliberately causing hardship by refusing to take advantage of 1991 Security Council permission to sell $1.6 billion in oil for humanitarian purposes.
U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright said Friday’s resolution was “not a lifting of the sanctions on the Iraqi regime, but a humanitarian exception to the sanctions for the benefit of the Iraqi people.”
There is added pressure on Iraq to go along with the new resolution because of diminished prospects the embargo will be lifted soon. Rolf Ekeus, head of the U.N. commission overseeing the elimination of mass destruction weapons, reported this week that Baghdad is trying to cover up a possibly ongoing biological weapons program. Even Iraq’s supporters in the Security Council said the finding had set back the timetable for lifting the sanctions.
To induce Iraq’s cooperation, the new measure, which was sponsored by the United States, Britain, Argentina, Oman and Rwanda, reaffirms Baghdad’s sovereignty. But it gives conditional permission to make the authorized oil sales on U.N. certification that Hussein’s government is permitting “equitable” distribution of the humanitarian supplies to its 18 million people. Some of the oil sale proceeds would be set aside to compensate victims of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and to pay for U.N. aid to the Kurds in northern Iraq.