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U.N. Security Council Votes for New Restrictions on Iraqi Imports

The Security Council approved tighter controls on Iraqi imports Monday, including limits on purchases of certain communications equipment, speed boats and antibiotics which the United States and Britain said could be used by the Iraqi military in a war.

Some diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, saw the changes as another sign that Washington and London were preparing for aq, but U.S. and British diplomats said the amendments to existing controls were routine and necessary.

Russia and Syria were the only abstentions in the 13-0 vote on the resolution which beefs up an existing list of items requiring U.N. approval before they can be purchased by Iraq.

Driven by economic interests, Russia didn't support the resolution because it failed to ease controls on sales of Russian-made heavy trucks which the United States and Britain say could be used by the Iraqi military.

Syria, Iraq's closest council ally, complained that one month of negotiations to add dozens of items to the "goods review list" wasn't enough time for Damascus to assess whether the changes would be helpful or harmful to Iraq's humanitarian situation.

The United States wanted to push through the resolution before the council year came to an end and five new countries -- including Germany and Pakistan -- join on Jan. 1.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said the United States had hoped for unanimous support but was "pleased with the outcome."

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said the new resolution would speed up procedures for delivery of humanitarian goods while controlling "those items which may be diverted for military use."

But Deputy Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Salmane disagreed. He said the resolution would hinder the U.N. oil-for-food program which allows Iraq to use proceeds from its oil sales to purchase humanitarian goods through a monitored system designed to spot any attempts to rearm.

Items with possible military applications must be approved by a Security Council committee that oversees economic sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The sanctions cannot be lifted until weapons inspectors certify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.

Three weeks after winning council approval for an Iraq resolution which created a tough new inspections regime, the United States proposed in early December to add new items to the existing 302-page "goods review list," which was crafted by Washington and London to speed the delivery of humanitarian goods to Iraqi civilians while preventing Iraq from rearming.

At the time, the United States said it wanted to add items such as the heart drug atropine -- which can be used as an anti-nerve agent in high doses -- and the antibiotic Cipro, which was used to combat anthrax in the United States last year.

But it failed to win support on those items from France and others, who noted that the drugs have civilian medical uses. In the end, Washington backed down and agreed to limit the review only to possible sales of high doses of the drugs.

Monday's resolution also makes some items easier for Iraq to import such as certain trucks with a load capacity under 20 tons.

But the Russian-made Kamaz-6520 dump truck exceeds that threshold.

Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov argued that the trucks are exclusively for civilian use and that holding up such sales hurts critical sectors of Iraq's economy and the delivery of humanitarian goods. He urged the council to allow such sales to go through in the future.

The 13-page resolution detailing the additions and changes to the review list includes activated charcoal, a widely used industrial substance that could be used for chemical weapons, fast boats, tires for military vehicles, hydraulic lift systems, flight simulators and training systems and equipment that could be used to jam communications systems.