US wants UN to lift ban on Iraq nuclear imports

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The United States hopes the UN Security Council will lift restrictions on the import of nuclear technology to Iraq, even though Baghdad has not ratified a UN agreement on tough atomic inspections.

At a meeting on Wednesday to be chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, the 15-nation Security Council also plans to adopt resolutions ending the controversial UN oil-for-food program and extending for six months immunities protecting Iraq from claims related to its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, diplomats said.

Those immunities will expire at the end of June 2011, a senior US official told reporters on condition of anonymity, Reuters reports.

Baghdad will keep paying 5 percent of its oil revenues as war reparations, most of it to Kuwait, despite Iraq’s calls for a renegotiation of those payments so it can use more of its oil money for needed development projects, Western diplomats said.

Iraq still owes Kuwait nearly US$22 billion in reparations, one Western diplomat said.

After its invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was hit with a series of UN measures that banned imports of chemicals and nuclear technology that could be used in its covert atomic, chemical and biological weapons programs. Those restrictions have remained in place for two decades.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice explained the justification for the council’s latest moves in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“After decades of tyranny and war, Iraq, a founding member of the United Nations, seeks to regain its rightful status in the community of nations,” she wrote. “While challenges remain, Iraq has made significant progress in recent months.”

UNKEPT PROMISE

In February the council said it would lift the restrictions on Iraq after it ratified a number of international agreements, including the so-called Additional Protocol, an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, on intrusive inspections.

Iraq has signed the Additional Protocol, submitted it to parliament for ratification and agreed to implement it provisionally until it enters into force. It has also pledged to never again develop nuclear, chemical or biological arms.

Even though Iraq has failed to ratify the protocol, Rice said the council would “consider bringing a formal end to restrictions imposed on Iraq … including with respect to the oil-for-food program (and) civilian nuclear development.”

The US official said ending the restrictions “will allow Iraq to pursue a civilian nuclear program.”

The UN oil-for-food program, which ran from 1996 to 2003, was created to help Iraqis cope with UN sanctions after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. The program allowed Baghdad to sell oil to buy humanitarian goods, but it became the focus of multiple fraud investigations after the invasion.

Western diplomats acknowledged that Iraq’s failure to ratify the IAEA’s Additional Protocol was a problem, but that the Security Council had received assurances from Baghdad that the parliament would ratify the protocol as soon as possible.

The protocol’s intrusive inspection regime, aimed at smoking out secret nuclear activities, stemmed from the IAEA’s discovery in 1991 of Iraq’s clandestine atom bomb program.



To keep pressure on Iraq, the resolution on weapons of mass destruction will include a clause requiring a review in 12 months of “progress made by Iraq on its commitment to ratify the Additional Protocol … and meet its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention,” a diplomat told Reuters.