x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Ban Ki-moon recommends end to Iraq sanctions

Most disputes related to 1990 invasion of Kuwait have been resolved, UN secretary general says.

UNITED NATIONS // The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, yesterday recommended moving a step closer to ending all of the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq more than two decades ago after the country's former leader, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Despite the fall of Saddam in 2003 after an invasion led by the United States, the UN has not fully lifted the sanctions.

If the UN Security Council accepts Mr Ban's recommendation, it would be a significant political boost for Baghdad as it struggles to restore its international standing a decade after Saddam was removed.

Iraq is still subject to a UN arms embargo and asset freeze on individuals and entities linked to Saddam.

Mr Ban has recommended that the remaining humanitarian issue between Iraq and Kuwait - related to missing Kuwaiti citizens and property - be dealt with under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter, which urges countries to peacefully resolve any conflicts.

Up until now, the issue has been dealt with under Chapter 7 of the charter, which allows the Security Council to authorise actions ranging from sanctions to military intervention.

The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, has said that if the Security Council agrees to Mr Ban's recommendation, Iraq's only outstanding Chapter 7 obligation would be to pay the remaining US$11 billion (Dh40.4bn) it owes Kuwait in compensation. He added that Iraq could clear this debt by 2015 if payments continued at the current pace.

US-led troops drove Iraq out of Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War.

For years, Kuwait opposed removal of Iraq from Chapter 7 due to unresolved disputes about the border, missing persons, property and other issues. But those have largely been resolved.

"The governments of Iraq and Kuwait have demonstrated statesmanship and respect for each other's national interests, in reaching a mutually acceptable and beneficial arrangement," Mr Ban said in a report to the Security Council.

"Should the Security Council agree with my recommendation, Iraq will exit Chapter 7 with regard to this file and will be one step closer to restoring its international standing ... an objective long sought by the leadership of the country following the removal of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

Mr Ban said the UN political mission in Iraq should be given responsibility for facilitating the search for missing Kuwaitis and nationals of other countries, or their remains, and property, including the country's national archives.

The Security Council is due to discuss the issue later this month.