Schroeder Calls for Quick Lifting of Sanctions Against Iraq

Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) said Friday it's time for the world community to "come to closure" on lifting U.N. sanctions against Iraq and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search) said it "makes no sense" to keep the punitive measures on the backs of the Iraqi people.

Powell said getting a consensus on a resolution should be possible "within the next several days or a week." The secretary also sought here to overcome frictions with Germany over the war in Iraq and win support for the U.N. resolution the United States has prepared.

It would lift all restrictions on Iraqi oil sales, giving the Iraqi people a chance to dig out of the economic distress marked by the rule of Saddam Hussein and U.N. efforts to squeeze him into submission.

In meetings at which Powell sought to mend frayed relations, Powell stressed the "shared values" of the two allies. But he and Schroeder also referred to their conversation as being candid, a diplomatic way of signaling disagreements.

Powell indicated the Bush administration was in a compromising mood on the text of the resolution. And Schroeder said the burden of the economic squeeze on the Iraqi people should be removed as soon as possible.

Powell said he was "pleased with the chancellor's commitment to lift the sanctions entirely."

They took no questions, however, so it was not immediately clear whether Germany no longer supported only a suspension of the sanctions.

Said Powell: "It should be possible to come to closure quickly over the next several days or week on a UN resolution that will lift sanctions and put in place the authorities necessary for us to begin helping the Iraqi people in a more direct way."

Powell had lengthy talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (search) and held a joint news conference at which Fischer said he was optimistic a resolution would be approved by the U.N. Security Council.

On the other hand, Fischer said Germany had not changed its position. It calls for a suspension, at least at the outset, and not the total and prompt elimination of the sanctions as proposed by the United States.

Schroeder, interviewed later Friday by ARD television, was asked whether Germany could vote for the draft U.S. resolution on sanctions.

"As far as I am aware ... there are very intensive discussions at the Security Council, but we are moving closer together. I expect that sanctions will be lifted quickly," he said. "In the end, this is about the people of Iraq, who must be helped as soon as possible."

The United States is planning to make its move at the U.N. Security Council next week. Powell had said Thursday that he was looking for a 15-0 vote.

Relations between Germany and the United States took a nosedive over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which Germany opposed. Bush had already cooled to Schroeder and they have not met since last November when they attended a summit in Prague, the Czech Republic, to pave the way for the expansion of the NATO military alliance.

In a ZDF television interview Friday, Powell said Bush and Schroeder will see each other at the G-8 economic summit meeting in Evian, France next month. But he also said he did not think Bush and Schroeder would have a one-on-one meeting there.

Speaking of his meeting with Schroeder, he said, "We talked about the disagreement of the past," but also about "what pulls us together."

"Even though disagreements are not uncommon among friends and these disagreements can occasionally become quite contentious, we also know what draws us together -- shared values, sacrifices together and working in many parts of the world together now, whether its the Balkans, in Afghanistan or elsewhere," Powell said.

But U.S. officials and a member of Schroeder's Social Democratic Party doubted there would be a full reconciliation quickly.

"The personal relationship is not just damaged, it is broken, and I fear beyond repair," Hans-Ulrich Klose, who heads the foreign affairs committee in the German parliament, wrote in the Welt am Sonntag weekly. "That is regrettable because personal trust in the negotiating parties is important for political cooperation."

Powell is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Berlin since the relationship went into a downward spiral when Schroeder campaigned for re-election by vigorously opposing Bush's threats to go to war with Iraq.

The German public was firmly against the war, and Germany lined up with France and Russia to push for extended U.N. weapons search. However, unlike the two other countries, Germany did not actively work to undercut the U.S. effort to round up votes in the Council.

Powell on Thursday had raised the possibility of suspending the sanctions, but quickly backtracked and said the United States wants them lifted immediately and without conditions.

Powell's comments came shortly before U.S. officials handed a revised draft of a U.N. resolution on postwar Iraq to Security Council experts Thursday afternoon. It calls for an end to "all prohibitions related to trade with Iraq and the provision of financial or economic resources to Iraq."