by Thalif Deen
(IPS) UNITED NATIONS --
United States is hitting roadblocks in its attempts to have the UN Security Council adopt a new resolution aimed at legitimizing its military attack on Iraq and giving it full control of the massive oil resources of the war-devastated nation.
Several member states in the Council, including France, Russia and Germany, are expressing reservations over the eight-page resolution because it gives Washington far reaching powers in running the occupied country.
"We have a lot of questions for which we expect answers," Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov told reporters. "We will start negotiations once we get all the information we seek."
The talks are expected to begin next week, and U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte says he is hoping for a vote on the resolution by next Friday.
German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger says his country wants to know how the reconstruction of Iraq is being organized. "We want it done in a transparent way in order to maintain credibility."
"The text of the resolution constitutes a starting point," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told reporters Monday. "But there's still a long way to go."
Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram said that Council members have sought clarifications "on a whole gamut of issues," including the future of Iraq, the powers of the proposed civilian authority in Baghdad, how the oil revenues would be administered, and most important of all, the role of the United Nations.
Virtually every one of the 191 UN member states -- including the United States and Britain -- says it wants the United Nations to play a "vital role" in post-war Iraq.
But that adjective, which has been kicked around for weeks, is "irrelevant," says UN spokesman Fred Eckhard, because no one has so far provided a meaningful definition.
The United States has refused to spell out any significant UN role in Iraq for the simple reason it does not want the United Nations for any of the three key tasks in post-war Iraq: reconstruction, peacekeeping and civil administration.
Washington has also drawn angry reactions from Iraq's debtors, including Russia and France, who, under the proposed changes, would not be able to recover billions owed them -- mostly for military purchases -- from Iraqi oil revenues.
The resolution, which is jointly co-sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain, calls for the lifting of the 12-year-old UN sanctions on Iraq and gives Washington the authority to spend and manage Iraq's oil revenues currently in the hands of the United Nations.
The proposed Iraqi Interim Authority, which will consist mostly of Iraqi expatriates handpicked by Washington, would only have a consultative role on oil revenues.
'Time' Magazine reported last week that post-war Iraq is capable of producing about 12 million barrels of oil per day, easily making it the world's number one oil supplier.
Fadhil Chalabi, executive director of the London-based Center for Global Energy Studies, says the average cost of producing a barrel of oil out of the ground in Iraq is less than a dollar, compared with 10 dollars in the United States and 2.50 dollars in Saudi Arabia.
The UN's oil-for-food programme, which permitted oil revenues to be used to buy food, medicine and relief supplies for the sanction-battered Iraqis, would be terminated under the U.S. plan.
That move would also deprive the United Nations of the authority it has had since 1996 to purchase, manage and distribute humanitarian supplies in the country. That authority would be transferred to the United States.
The resolution also calls for the creation of an Iraqi Assistance Fund presided over by an international advisory board, including representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, which will decide how the money will be spent on humanitarian assistance.
The latest resolution would be adopted if it received nine positive votes and no vetoes. The five countries holding veto powers are the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.
The two most prominent skeptics -- France and Russia -- have not said publicly if they will exercise their veto.
Britain's Secretary for International Development, Clare Short, who resigned from her cabinet post early this week protesting London's support for the resolution, says Washington is strong-arming members of the Council.
The British government, she complained, "is supporting the United States in trying to bully the Security Council into a resolution that gives the (Anglo-American) coalition the power to establish an Iraqi government and control the use of oil for reconstruction with only a minor role for the United Nations".
She predicts that the resolution is unlikely to pass "but if it does, it will not create the best arrangements for the reconstruction of Iraq".
The proposal is "clearly an attempt by the United States to get the Security Council to give it the right to determine the disposition of Iraq's oil and its proceeds for the indefinite future, and certainly not for the benefit of the people of Iraq, as required by the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949," says Francis Boyle, professor of law at the University of Illinois and author of 'Foundations of World Order'.
"Just witness some of these sweetheart contracts that the U.S. government has already given out to the cronies of the U.S. administration," Boyle told IPS.
He likened the resolution to Japan trying to get the League of Nations to legitimize its illegal invasion of China so it could loot and plunder Manchuria, then set up a puppet state.
"Instead the League of Nations Assembly soundly condemned Japan and adopted the 1932 Stimson Doctrine, articulated by U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson, that the League of Nations would not recognize any fruits of an aggressive war," Boyle said.
Seven decades later, Washington is attempting to reverse its own Stimson Doctrine at the Security Council, he added.
According to previous Council resolutions, UN sanctions on Iraq can be lifted only when UN arms inspectors declare the country free of weapons of mass destruction. But the United States, which has refused to permit UN inspectors to return to Iraq, has been conducting its own search for weapons of mass destruction -- with no luck.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that "sanctions can only be removed when there is no suspicion (about the existence of weapons of mass destruction".
May 15, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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