The Bush administration plans to ask the United Nations to lift economic sanctions on Iraq in phases in a bid to bypass opposition from other countries, The New York Times reported Saturday.
US officials said that instead of a single UN Security Council resolution to lift the sanctions, the United States would seek three or four resolutions over several months, gradually turning over parts of the economy to an Iraqi authority assembled with US guidance.
The step-by-step approach, the newspaper said, was the latest US tactic to counter assertions by France, Russia and other Security Council members that they would oppose lifting sanctions without a broader role in postwar Iraq for the United Nations than the one envisioned by Washington.
These countries also insist that only the UN Security Council has the authority to end the sanctions imposed shortly after Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Under relevant UN resolutions, the sanctions should not be lifted until the Security Council has certified that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.
The United States has been accusing Iraq of seeking and possessing weapons of mass destruction and used the allegation as the main pretext for invading Iraq and overthrowing President Saddam Hussein's government.
Because France and Russia could veto the lifting of sanctions, some US officials say they fear a messy situation in which lawsuit would be filed by those arguing that any oil sales in defiance of the UN sanctions would be a violation of international law, according to The New York Times.
How to approach this issue has been a matter of considerable debate in the administration, the newspaper said. The Pentagon has favored a minimal role for the United Nations, but the State Department argues that its role is essential to lending legitimacy to a postwar Iraqi government.
"For a while there was a lot of talk about one omnibus Security Council resolution on Iraq," a senior administration official was quoted as saying.
"We're now thinking in terms of several resolutions and letting Iraqis build their economy in phases before they get full control of the oil."
However, it was not clear whether the new US approach would win any support from Security Council members who remain bitter about the administration's decision to go to war without UN authorization, The New York Times said.