New York: The UN Security Council gave a unanimous vote of confidence on Wednesday to the significant strides Iraq has taken by lifting 19-year-old sanctions on weapons and civilian nuclear power.
The council also decided to return control of Iraq`s oil and natural gas revenue to the government next summer and to settle all remaining claims over the controversial oil-for-food program, which helped ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein`s Army invaded Kuwait two decades ago.
Although some sanctions will remain in place until Iraq and Kuwait settle outstanding issues from that war, Wednesday`s vote was a major step to restore Iraq`s international standing a year before the U.S. is to pull its last troops out of the country. It came a day after a power-sharing agreement ended a lengthy deadlock on forming a new Iraqi government.
Vice President Joe Biden, who presided over the meeting, told the council the move marked "an important milestone for the government of Iraq and people of Iraq in their ongoing effort to leave behind their troubled past and embrace a much brighter future."
"The three resolutions we`ve passed bring an end to the burdensome remnants of the dark era of Saddam Hussein," he said.
Biden`s presence was a sign of the importance the Obama administration gave to the vote. The US holds the Security Council presidency this month.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the adoption of the resolutions "marks the beginning of the end of the sanctions regime and restrictions on Iraq`s sovereignty, independence and recovery."
"Our key focus has been to unburden Iraq from the heavy legacy of non-compliance with international law and to break its isolation and regain its rightful place among the community of nations," he told the council.
Zebari said in an interview that Biden`s presence and the resolutions "showed continued American engagement with Iraq — that it`s not abandoned”.
Iraq has been pressing the Security Council for several years to end sanctions and cancel more than 70 resolutions adopted after Saddam`s war against Kuwait.
Zebari said following the council`s votes on Wednesday only about a dozen resolutions remain, all related to outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait.