UNITED NATIONS, Feb 26 (KUNA) - The Security Council on Friday expressed its readiness to lift restrictions on Iraq's scientific and technical research but only after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certifies that Baghdad has complied with all its disarmament obligations.
"The Security Council underlines its readiness, once the necessary steps have been taken, to review, with a view towards lifting the restrictions in resolutions 687 of 1991 and 707 of 1991 related to weapons of mass destruction and civil nuclear activities," the council President Gerard Araud of France said in a statement he read out in a council open meeting on behalf of the council members.
The council also "underlined the importance of Iraq ratifying the Additional Protocol" to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, and requested the IAEA to inform the members "as soon as possible" regarding the quality of Iraq's safeguards-related cooperation with the Agency, including provisional implementation of the Additional Protocol pending its entry into force.
The actual lifting of the restrictions on Iraq will take place at a later stage by a vote on a draft resolution in the council after the IAEA certifies that Iraq has complied with all its disarmament obligations.
The lifting of those restrictions will be limited to scientific issues only. Iraq has so far asked for permission from the UN to import chemicals, such as pesticides, which can be used in agriculture or for military purposes.
While Iraq wants to come out from under Chapter 7 altogether, the international community demands that it complies first with other issues related to its border with Kuwait and the Kuwaiti missing and property stolen during the 1990 invasion.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari confirmed in a letter to the council last month that his government supports the international nonproliferation regime and complies with disarmament treaties and other relevant international instruments and is committed to taking additional steps to comply with non-proliferation and disarmament standards.
The council welcomed in its Presidential statement Zebari's letter, Iraq's accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, and its intention to sign the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
It also welcomed the fact that Iraq signed the Additional Protocol to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA and that the Additional Protocol is currently before the Parliament for ratification, as is the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
The council also reaffirmed its commitment to the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, and emphasized the importance of the stability and security of Iraq for its people, the region, and the international community.
Diplomats here speculate that the US-proposed move is seen as a "present" to the Iraqi current government to boost its chances in the upcoming elections on March 7th.
Commenting on the Presidential statement after the council's approval of the statement, US Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told KUNA "it is clear that Iraq still has other additional steps to take" before it gets out from under Chapter 7.
Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam aso told KUNA that what happened in the council today "is not conclusive. How long it will take? (for Iraq to get out of Chapter 7) Nobody can predict. There is a change of orientation. For us it is in the right direction."
British Ambassador to the UN Sir Mark Lyall Grant later told KUNA the Presidential statement approved in the council is "important" because it shows support for the steps that the Iraqi Government has taken, "but it also reaffirms the importance of the further steps that the Iraq Government should take, both on the question of the border with Kuwait and also on the additional protocol in terms of non-proliferation".
"It is a very supportive resolution and I think it demonstrates a good sense of unity by the Security Council on the real progress that the Iraqi Government has made in the last few years," he added. (end).