Iraq's U.N. Ambassador: Lift Restraints

Iraq's U.N. ambassador urged the U.N. Security Council (search) on Monday to lift "the shackles and burdens" it imposed on Saddam Hussein's government, saying the new Iraq is a fledgling democracy that should no longer be subject to a U.N. arms embargo and economic restraints.

Samir Sumaidaie (search) said Iraq's new transitional leaders want the council to end the use of Iraqi oil revenue to pay U.N. weapons inspectors and to dismantle other legal and bureaucratic restrictions it imposed to contain Saddam "which have outlived their relevance."

"We must not be kept waiting [and paying] month after month and year after year to do what everyone knows will have to be done eventually," he told council members. "Iraq is a fledgling democracy committed to the rule of law, both internationally and domestically. As such, it has the legitimate right to expect to be treated like any other member state."

Last month, Sumaidaie complained that more than $12 million annually in Iraqi oil money is going to the U.N. commission charged with chemical, biological and missile inspections and $12.3 million in the next two years to the International Atomic Energy Agency (search) for nuclear inspectors.

The two bureaucracies "are doing absolutely nothing that is relevant to Iraq" and the money should be going to the Iraqi people for reconstruction, he said.

Officially, Sumaidaie said, Iraqi imports are still subject to inspection and this can only be lifted by the Security Council as can an arms embargo imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, the current council president, said members haven't discussed these issues.

But speaking as Beijing's envoy, he said that lifting the arms embargo on Iraq should be considered "as we see this political process moving forward," and he said decisions on the future of U.N. inspectors will be made "in the next few months."

The Security Council welcomed the selection of Iraq's transitional leaders and called for the early approval of ministers and a quick start to the drafting of a constitution. Council members urged the Transitional National Assembly to reach out to all segments of society and ensure that all Iraqis have a voice in drafting the document.

Even though the formation of a transitional government has taken several months, Sumaidaie said the assembly will soon start preparations for writing a constitution and expects to conclude the process by the end of the year — as scheduled — with elections for the country's first constitutionally elected government.

"We faced and still face the vicious reaction of determined and well resourced foes bent on derailing our project," he said. "But now that Iraqis have had their first taste of freedom they will not be denied it."

Sumaidaie said the United Nations had appointed South African lawyer Fink Haysom, a former legal adviser to Nelson Mandela, to be the lead U.N. constitutional adviser for Iraq. U.N. officials had not announced Haysom's appointment because Iraqi leaders had yet to accept it, U.N. associate spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson, speaking on behalf of the more than 130,000-strong U.S.-led multinational force, urged the United Nations to play a greater role in promoting a national dialogue in Iraq and building consensus on the new constitution.

"We would like to see the U.N. expand implementation of its responsibilities for economic and humanitarian reconstruction assistance," she added, urging a robust U.N. presence in the northern city of Irbil and the southern city of Basra where the world body established a small presence in February.

Sumaidaie criticized the United Nations for "going overboard" with security concerns. "Especially for Irbil and Basra, there is really not justification for such caution," he said.

U.N. envoy Ashraf Qazi said "the security situation in Iraq is showing some optimistic signs of improvement but it's not yet clear what the longer-term trends will be."

He said the United Nations hopes a review currently under way will lead to an increased U.N. presence in Irbil and Basra.

"The drafting of a national constitution provides a historic opportunity for Iraqis to come together," Qazi said, and the "political inclusiveness" in the new government "augers well" for similar inclusiveness in drafting the document.