UNITED NATIONS – Iraq wants the United Nations to lift all sanctions and stop using the country's oil revenue to pay compensation to victims of the 1991 Gulf War and the salaries of U.N. weapons inspectors, Iraq's U.N. ambassador said Tuesday.
Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie (search) called sanctions "anachronistic and inappropriate" and said it's time for the Security Council to recognize that Iraq is a "much more internationally friendly" country that wants to be at peace with its neighbors.
No longer needed, he said, was the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (search), which was responsible for dismantling Iraqi programs to build chemical or biological weapons or long-range missiles.
The commission's inspectors left Iraq just before the March 2003 U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein, and the United States has barred them from returning.
The commission, known as UNMOVIC (search), is funded by proceeds from the sale of Iraqi oil, at a cost of more than $10 million a year.
"I think it's generally acknowleged that Iraq now does not pose such a threat, and does not in its present form have any weapons of mass destruction. And, therefore, to continue to fund a bureaucracy to do what, to just continue to say every day that they have found nothing?" Sumaidaie said.
"I think that we should work towards closing these files and unburden Iraq of the legacy of Saddam's rule," he said.
The Iraqi ambassador also took aim at the U.N. Compensation Commission (search) based in Geneva, which consists of the 15 Security Council members and was set up in 1991 to pay compensation to victims of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the war that followed.
It has received claims for $353 billion from individuals, companies and governments, and has approved payments of $51.8 billion.
"I think we want to put some ceilings on all these things," Sumaidaie said. "We don't want to be forever doling out money. We have to have some kind of a cutoff, conclusion, closure."
The money for compensation claims comes from Iraqi oil sales, as did the funds for the U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program, which is the target of numerous investigations following allegations of massive corruption.
"We will actively pursue what happened to Iraqi monies ... and if it's discovered that some of it was misappropriated or misspent or there was corruption involved, we will want to get to the bottom of that and insist on accountability," Sumaidaie said.
"We will do everythg possible to recover what can be recovered. This belongs to the Iraqi people, and we have the duty to answer to the Iraqi people what happened to their money," he said.
"At one stage or another, these things will come before the Security Council, and we have to prepare for that," Sumaidaie said.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry (search) said during the next review of UNMOVIC in March, the Security Council "is going to have to go into the substance of this."
The United States has blocked discussion of UNMOVIC's future, but Jones Parry said, "I don't see how we can avoid this."