Iraq Hopes for U.N. Sanctions to Be Lifted as Maliki Arrives in U.S.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is visiting the United Nations on Wednesday in hopes of getting assurances that sanctions against Iraq will be lifted.

Maliki is meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon one day ahead of his first meeting with President Obama since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi cities at the end of June. 

While Iraq faces U.S. pressure to speed up efforts for national reconciliation and provide assurances that Iraq's security forces are capable of protecting their own urban populations, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told FOX News on Monday that Iraq will soon be released from all 73 U.N. resolutions and "Chapter 7" sanctions.

Zebari said Ban would present his report to the Security Council next week and he was confident that Iraq would be released from its obligations "by this summer." 

Remaining sanctions were impeding progress in certain government ministries such as health and education, preventing vital equipment from being imported, Zebari said.

The international body imposed sanctions on the country after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Among its requirements is restitution to Kuwait for the invasion. 

The foreign minister suggested that releasing Iraqi from its commitment would not be a problem for its neighbor.

"Coming out of Chapter 7 will not disadvantage our Kuwaiti brothers," Zebari said. 

In fact, Zebari, who was in Washington, D.C., ahead of Maliki's arrival, said diplomatic regional relations with Iraq's neighbors are "in a new phase," and noted that most Gulf Cooperation Council nations had re-appointed their ambassadors to Baghdad. The long-promised ambassador from Saudi Arabia has not yet arrived, but Zebari said Iraq's ambassador in the Saudi kingdom was very active.

As for Iran and Syria, which share lengthy borders with Iraq, Zebari said Iraq supports U.S. engagement efforts with both, adding that Iraq has a "role to play." 

He said Iran has shown signs of greater transparency on the issue of cross-border arms smuggling. 

"We have been very direct," Zebari said, noting the issue has been on the table in all discussions with his Iranian counterpart. 

As for Syria, that country has made a start by stemming the flow of insurgents across its previously porous border.

"Syria has cooperated by controlling the numbers of foreign fighters by imposing certain restrictions on airports, checking IDs. The numbers of have gone down, but more needs to be done," he said.

Relations with the United States also require maintenance, he said, emphasizing the need for the Obama administration to help smooth some internal strife.

"There are problems in Iraq that could turn into crises. The administration needs to keep its focus," he said.

Zebari said while it welcomes U.S. involvement, Iraq wants to accelerate the Strategic Forces Agreement, the document that outlines the pullback of U.S. forces until its withdrawal by 2011. The Iraqi army and police had "matured and proved themselves," he said, though the possibility of a resurgence of the Sons of Iraq and other militias remains.

Zebari also called upon the United States to play an active role in resolving the country's stalled negotiations over oil profits. A version of the oil law had been approved by leaders of various political groups but leaders of Kurdistan, where 100,000 barrels of oil are produced each day, are reluctant to put their oil profits straight into the national budget.

"We need America and other bodies to mediate," he said, noting that the oil law is not the only source of tension between the Kurdish regional authority and Iraq's central government in Baghdad.

"There are political difficulties. There is definitely tension, there are delays, as people are selectively interpreting the constitution."

But the foreign minister downplayed the notion of intractable tensions saying that Baghdad hosted visits from Kurdish officials and that in his view the situation would improve after Kurdistan provincial elections, which he predicted would take place at the end of this year ahead of Iraq's own general elections in January 2010.