WASHINGTON – The United States unilaterally waived some sanctions on Iraq (search) Wednesday, opening the way for the lifting of a larger embargo imposed by the United Nations in 1990.
"Lifting the sanctions is an essential step in providing for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and of commencing the reconstruction process," said Treasury Secretary John Snow (search).
"The regime that was once the target of our economic sanctions has been extinguished and our mission now is to rebuild Iraq and provide much-needed humanitarian aid as the people of Iraq begin a new life in freedom," Snow said.
The sanctions, lifted on President Bush's request, apply only to humanitarian efforts and official U.S. aid, allowing the government to send items previously prohibited.
One official cited dredging equipment as an example of an item that can now be brought in to help repair the port of Um Qasr (search) so that more aid shipments can reach the country. Laptops and satellite phones used by humanitarian groups had also previously been prohibited.
Expatriates and others will also now be able to send $500 per month to friends and families in Iraq. Snow said if only half of the 143,000 Iraqis in the United States send money home to family, it will generate $30 million per month.
The "suspension of penalties" as the State Department calls it, is a temporary measure and does not reflect ordinary commerce.
The State Department head of counterterrorism Cofer Black said that a new Iraqi government must be in place before sanctions are officially and completely removed.
The suspension does not affect other sanctions imposed by the United Nations, which remain in place.
Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the United Nations on Wednesday to discuss with Secretary-General Kofi Annan moves to lift U.N. sanctions on Iraq.
On Tuesday, Bush voiced his support for the lifting on U.N. sanctions after a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in Washington.
Bush said, "The atmosphere that existed prior to the war has changed. People now want to work together for the good of the Iraqi people."
Diplomatic sources said the United States is expected to circulate a draft resolution at the end of this week or early next week outlining a proposal to lift sanctions.
The United States is looking for three provisions to be embodied in the resolution, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
"First, to lift the sanctions burden on the Iraqi people; second, to encourage the international community to help rebuild Iraq; and, third, to define the vital role that President Bush has called for the United Nations to play," Boucher said.
"Our aim is to create the conditions for the return to normal life for the Iraqi people, and for Iraq's return to the international community as a member in good standing," he added.
In the meantime, Bush administration officials are talking one-on-one with members of the Security Council in an effort to build support. Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage headed to Pakistan. Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes is on his way to Russia and Germany to go over the details of the resolution. Powell discussed the details Wednesday with Mexico's foreign minister.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has also had several meetings with her counterparts.
According to sources, Germany appears to be cooperative about lifting the sanctions.
France has offered to "suspend" sanctions until weapons of mass destruction are found and certified by the United Nations. Russia, however, continues to resist lifting sanctions, sources said.
"They are being so blatantly and shamelessly commercial," said one source, who is not American.
They want to protect their commercial interests in Iraq more than any other nation, said one source adding, in the end, "It will be a matter of buying them off" with concessions.
When the United States submits its plan to lift U.N. sanctions, it will also propose the appointment of a U.N. special coordinator to work with the coalition that is working now to rebuild the nation.
Fox News' Jim Angle and Teri Schultz contributed to this report.