WASHINGTON – The United States said Tuesday it was lifting most remaining sanctions on Iraq, freeing U.S. companies to do business with the country for the first time in nearly 13 years.
The action followed a United Nations Security Council resolution last week that ended U.N. trade and oil sanctions against Iraq.
Under the action being taken by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (search), companies and people can engage in many normal trade and investment opportunities with Iraq without first having to obtain government approval.
Still barred are trade in arms and in cultural artifacts illegally removed from Iraq, as well as trade with certain officials of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party (search) and other blacklisted people, the Treasury Department said in a statement.
Also, exporting of certain goods, such as high-tech equipment that has been restricted for national security purposes would still require companies to obtain a license from the U.S. government.
"Trade and the opportunities and resources that come with it will unleash the force of the free market, bringing a better life for the people of Iraq," Treasury Secretary John Snow (search) said.
"Oil can now be exported to finance reconstruction and humanitarian needs," he said. "Vital goods and services can be imported."
Private economists say reviving Iraq's economy and moving it toward a free-market system after years under a system tightly controlled by Saddam's government will be difficult and time consuming.
Economic sanctions have been in place since August 1990, following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
With Saddam and his ruling Baath Party out of power, the United States earlier this month announced it was removing some sanctions against Iraq to help efforts to rebuild the country and to provide humanitarian aid.
The U.N. Security Council imposed its own sanctions on the country in 1990. Under the U.N. resolution last week, money from oil sales will now be deposited in a new Development Fund for Iraq, which will be controlled by the United States and Britain and used to rebuild the country.
Treasury said that President Bush has signed an executive order protecting that fund from legal claims that might be made against Saddam's former government.