U.N. Security Council votes to end several Hussein-era sanctions against Iraq

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 15, 2010; 7:36 PM

UNITED NATIONS - More than two decades after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday lifted a raft of sanctions designed to contain Iraq and prevent it from developing weapons of mass destruction.

The 15-nation council voted to end restrictions on Iraqi's rights to develop a civilian nuclear program, agreed to restore Iraqi control of its oil revenue within six months and brought an end to the vestiges of the controversial $64 billion oil-for-food program, which allowed Hussein's government to export billions of dollars worth of oil to purchase goods.

Vice President Biden presided over the session, which provided the Obama administration with an opportunity to highlight progress in the long, hard political transition in Iraq.

Speaking on behalf of the council, Biden said Wednesday's action marked a recognition of how much Iraq has improved its relations with the rest of the world.

The passage of the resolutions "brings an end to the burdensome remnants of the dark era of Saddam Hussein," he said.

The vote followed years of debate within the council over how to settle the matter of sanctions that had been imposed on the former Iraqi regime but that often seemed irrelevant under a government that had wide backing from the U.N. membership.

The council's action will leave several issues outstanding, including a provision that requires Iraq to pay 5 percent of oil revenue to compensate Kuwaiti companies and individuals who suffered losses during the invasion.

"My government appreciates the recognition of success we have achieved [and which] lifts another burden on Iraq's recovery, " said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. "The adoption of these important resolutions marks the beginning of the end of the sanctions regime and restriction on Iraq's sovereignty, independence and recovery."

Although all members of the council credited Iraq with making major strides in normalizing its relations with the outside world, they expressed concern about the delay in the formation of a government and continuing sectarian violence and attacks on ethnic minorities. Zebari assured the council that a new government would be formed "very, very soon."

Biden also recognized the difficulties facing Iraq, but he insisted that Iraq was on the way to putting those behind it.

"We're particularly concerned about recent attempts to target innocents because of their faith, including both Christians and Muslims," he said. He added, "The Iraqi people have emerged from the depths of sectarian violence and they have flatly rejected the grim future offered by extremists and they have earned themselves a chance for much better days ahead."

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