WASHINGTON – President Bush on Wednesday urged U.N. Security Council (search) countries to end the sanctions against Iraq.
Fresh from a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (search), the president said that he felt the nations can move away from prewar divisions and "work together" to end the sanctions, which "hold back the hopes of the Iraqi people."
Bush's announcement came only hours after the Treasury Department (search) announced it was waiving some U.S. sanctions against Iraq because Saddam Hussein's regime has been dismantled.
Prodding the Security Council, Bush said, "No country in good conscience can support using sanctions to hold back the hopes of the Iraqi people."
At a news conference with Aznar, Bush said that the United States, Britain and Spain would introduce a U.N. resolution "soon" that would lift sanctions imposed in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
"The regime that the sanctions were directed against no longer rules Iraq," Bush said.
Such a resolution could be introduced before the 15-member council as early as Friday or Monday, a senior State Department official said.
U.S. efforts to lift the sanctions have met resistance from veto-wielding Russia and France.
But after meeting with Aznar, Bush said he senses there is now "a mood to work together" on a sanctions resolution despite earlier objections that divided the Security Council over whether to go war in Iraq.
Aznar agreed. "Absolutely. I hope it's true," he said. "Everyone needs to contribute to it within the Security Council."
Bush also announced that he was removing U.S. sanctions imposed on Iraq under a 1990 law. He said he was doing so to allow certain equipment needed for Iraq's reconstruction to be sent to the country.
This was in addition to the lifting of most U.S. economic sanctions on Iraq, also ordered by Bush and announced earlier in the day by Treasury Secretary John Snow. Snow said the move would "bring much-needed aid and humanitarian relief" to Iraqis.
France and Russia have voiced objections to abandoning the sanctions until the United Nations certifies that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.
There were indications on Wednesday, however, that France was softening its position, and so was Germany, a Security Council member without veto power and a strong critic of the war.
French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte said in an interview, "We want to find the best possible solutions in the interest of the Iraqi people."
Russia, meanwhile, is agreeable only to a suspension of the embargoes on food and medicine.
Now that the regime of Saddam has been ended, Bush said, "the atmosphere that existed prior to the war has changed. People now want to work together for the good of the Iraqi people."
Aznar was the latest in a series of world leaders who received a personal thanks from Bush for supporting military action in Iraq. Last weekend, Bush played host to Australian Prime Minister John Howard at his ranch in Texas.
Bush praised Aznar as an important friend of America, calling him a man of principle and courage. He thanked Aznar for providing diplomatic support before the Iraq war and for allowing U.S. planes to fly over Spanish airspace and use Spanish air bases.
Aznar said, "When you give your word and you keep it, that gives rise to trust. And that actually is what serious countries and serious governments must do."
Bush also expressed regret over the deaths of two Spanish journalists in Iraq -- one of whom was killed when U.S. forces fired on a Baghdad hotel where foreign reporters were working.
"I think war is a dangerous place, and I think that nobody would kill a journalist intentionally," Bush said.
Aznar said he accepted Bush's explanation.
In calling for lifting U.N. sanctions, Bush announced that the United States had removed its own sanctions against Iraq.
The lifting of the U.S. restrictions will allow humanitarian aid to flow to Iraq from the United States and allow people in the United States to send up to $500 a month to friends and family there.
Special permission will still be required to export to Iraq certain goods controlled for national security purposes.
Aznar did get one plum from the Bush administration during his visit.
The State Department announced it was moving toward adding Batasuna, a Basque nationalist party, to its list of terrorist organizations. Aznar had requested such a designation.
The group was recently outlawed in Spain for its suspected ties to the armed separatist group ETA, which had already been included on the list.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that U.S. assets of the organization -- and two predecessor groups -- were being frozen, a first step to adding it to the terrorist list.
"Since its establishment in the 1960s, ETA has been responsible for over 850 deaths in Spain," Boucher said. "The United States stands with Spain in its fight against terrorism. Spain has continued to be a strong ally in the global war against terrorism."
Aznar thanked Bush for the move,
Aznar suffered politically at home for his strong support of Bush's war effort. Huge anti-war demonstrations filled the streets of Madrid and other Spanish cities and Aznar saw his approval ratings plummet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.