PARIS — Secretary of State Colin Powell voiced doubt Friday that a U.S.-British plan to overhaul sanctions on Iraq would be approved soon by the U.N. Security Council. The problem is Russia, which is holding out.
“We’ve had some progress over the last 24 hours with the French and the Chinese, but I’m not saying they are all aboard yet,” Powell said.
In New York, acting U.N. Ambassador James Cunningham announced that four of the five permanent council members – the United States, Britain, China and France – had agreed on a list of military-related items that might be exported. The list would have to be reviewed by the U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against Iraq.
“We were very encouraged” by the support from France and China, Cunningham said, calling the list a key part of the U.S.-British plan.
But Russia, Iraq’s closest council ally, remains adamantly opposed to the proposal, and did not agree on the list. Russia has threatened to veto the resolution if it comes to a vote.
Powell said Russia was protecting its commercial interests and was not convinced all sanctions would ultimately be removed.
The secretary of state said he would speak to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov over the weekend. Cunningham and other diplomats said they expect high-level diplomatic contacts to continue ahead of a Tuesday deadline. The Security Council scheduled another meeting on Iraq for Monday afternoon.
The U.S.-British plan would lift most restrictions on civilian goods entering Iraq while plugging up lucrative Iraqi smuggling routes and tightening enforcement of an arms embargo imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi government vehemently opposes the plan.
The proposal is incorporated in a resolution to extend the U.N. oil-for-food program, which allows Iraq to sell oil if the proceeds are spent on food, medicine and other essential goods. When agreement wasn’t reached on a sanctions overhaul in early June, the program was extended until July 3.
The current Security Council president, Bangladesh’s U.N. Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, said he expects another temporary extension because of differences on the sanctions overhaul.
“I believe the bigger resolution is not possible,” Chowdhury said. “It is absolutely difficult.” He explained that his assessment was based on a discussion on Iraq held by the council behind closed doors Friday afternoon.
While in the Middle East, Powell lobbied Foreign Ministers Hubert Vedrine of France, Tang Jiaxuan of China and Jack Straw of Britain by telephone.
As he flew from Jordan to Paris for a meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Powell told reporters he was pleased with the success he had rallying other Security Council members to support a new sanctions policy.
In Jordan, Powell said, he promised King Abdullah II that the United States would try to minimize the impact of the new sanctions. Jordan, a neighbor and key trading partner of Iraq, has voiced deep reservations about the U.S.-British proposal, worried that it would devastate its economy.
In New York, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Riyadh Al-Qaisi reiterated Baghdad’s vehement opposition to the plan during an open Security Council meeting Thursday and at a press conference on Friday.
Iraq halted all oil exports, except to its neighbors, in protest. Al-Qaisi said Friday that Iraq will not resume oil exports if the Security Council approves a resolution that makes any mention of altering the current sanctions.