WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is hailing the new sanctions program against Iraq as the state of the art in so-called "smart sanctions," and calling it "a step forward for the Iraqi people."
Approved unanimously by the United Nations Security Council Tuesday, the new sanctions are aimed at increasing exports into Iraq of harmless goods and products while clamping down more tightly on the flow of so-called dual-use goods — products that could serve civilian or military ends.
The vote also allows Iraq to continue selling oil and using the proceeds for food and medicine through next November.
Other countries, even some that voted for the new sanctions package, are still clamoring for more compromises by the United States while White House officials privately doubt Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will observe the rules passed Tuesday.
The White House, however, is hopeful that it will become harder for Saddam to blame sanctions for the suffering of his people.
"The focused controls on military relevant goods and simplified procedures for civilian goods eliminates excuses for inaction or evasion of U.N. sanctions on Iraq," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
On the parallel issue of Saddam's refusal to re-admit U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq, senior White House officials see no linkage to the Security Council vote. Talks between the United Nations and Saddam about the re-introduction of inspectors continue later this month while the U.S. position remains unchanged that Iraq must not develop biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.
"The focus is on making certain that he does not have weapons of mass destruction, not that he is able to have some people into his country and then evade their ability to find out whether or not he, indeed, has weapons of mass destruction," Fleischer said.
In a statement, Secretary of State Colin Powell argued the new sanctions will help corral Saddam's weaponry program.
"The [Security] Council has agreed that firm, focused controls must stay in place to prevent Iraq from re-establishing its conventional, ballistic missile, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. The need for such controls will remain until Iraq complies fully with all of its U.N. obligations," he said.
Syrian representatives went along with the vote, but called again for all sanctions against Iraq to end, a position echoed by Russia's ambassador to the United Nations.
"It is only through the lifting of sanctions which Iraq could revive its economy and therefore there is a need for a comprehensive solution," said Russia's U.N. ambassador Sergei Lavrov.
In concrete terms, the Security Council vote means there will now be a 300-page list of all goods making their way into Iraq that could have "dual use" for civilian or military purposes like trucks or communications equipment.
U.N. officials will be responsible for checking the list, and giving thumbs up or thumbs down to specific items, within a 30-day period.