The military occupation of Iraq by the United States and Britain finally won a strong measure of international acceptance yesterday when the United Nations Security Council overwhelmingly adopted a resolution endorsing the joint control of the country for an undetermined period of time.
Overcoming the divisions that splintered the Security Council in the run-up to the war, ambassadors agreed by 14 votes to zero to adopt a resolution that immediately lifts the sanctions imposed on Baghdad days after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Syria left an empty seat in the chamber.
The vote was a diplomatic victory for the US, which agreed to 90 different amendments to the original draft of the resolution, tabled jointly with Britain and Spain two weeks ago. The changes were critical to winning the support of France, Germany and Russia. All three countries led the effort in March to block British and American attempts to win UN approval for the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
While the concessions including a slightly enhanced role for the UN during reconstruction and a pledge to consider at a later date the future of UN weapons inspectors did enough to appease detractors, the fundamental goals of Britain and the US were left intact. Both countries are now, in essence, free to run Iraq until an internationally recognised government is in place and will control its oil flows.
For Iraq, the vote should ignite the process of economic and political reconstruction. With the lifting of sanctions, oil exports can start to flow and foreign companies are free to begin providing supplies without legal hindrance. Iraq is aiming for oil production to reach 1.3 million barrels per day by mid-July.
Diplomats in New York voiced hope that the vote will go some way to healing the deep wounds suffered by the Security Council over Iraq. "The UN has recovered its position on this important subject," the British ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, remarked. He said Britain was intent on "bringing Iraq back to a normal state under its own people in as little time as possible".
But signs of dissent still lingered. While Washington continues to resist calls for a return to Iraq of the arms inspectors, Sir Jeremy hinted at a different point of view in London. In a speech inside the chamber, he said in "due time" the Council would have to take up the question of UN inspections "as they relate to the complete disarmament of Iraq under previous resolutions."
Moreover, remarks made by France and Germany notably fell short of enthusiasm. Noting that Paris still had reservations about the resolution, Jean-Marc de la Sablière, the French ambassador, said it was "not perfect". He added, however, that it provided "a credible framework within which the international community will be able to lend support for the Iraqi people. That is why we supported it."
Germany's envoy, Gunter Pleuger, said bluntly: "This resolution is a compromise. It does not fulfill every wish of all parties but as compared to the initial draft ,we have achieved substantial improvements."
The agreement was welcomed by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, who, under its provisions is expected shortly to appoint a "special representative" to Iraq. Speculation centred last night on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who has US support.
Giving the UN representative a slightly enhanced role than originally envisaged was once of the main concessions.
The US ambassador, John Negroponte, said it "provides a credible framework in which the international community can lend support to the Iraqi people". Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, said: "This is a wonderful day for the people of Iraq."Reuse content