US circulates UN resolution to protect Iraq assets
By EDITH M. LEDERER,Associated Press Writer AP - Saturday, December 20
UNITED NATIONS - The United States circulated a U.N. resolution that would shield billions of dollars of Iraqi assets from legal actions after the mandate for the U.S.-led multinational force ends, U.N. diplomats said Friday.
The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, would extend for one year the arrangements under the U.N. mandate for the American-led multinational force in Iraq, which expires Dec. 31.
Similar legal protection under an executive order signed by President George W. Bush expires in May, and Iraq is expected to seek an extension of that order as well.
The U.N. resolution authorizing the multinational force is being replaced by a new U.S.-Iraq security pact which requires American forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 and the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012.
The draft resolution protecting Iraqi assets was sent to Security Council members late Thursday and is likely to be put to a vote early next week, U.S. diplomats said.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in an interview Thursday that he has spoken to council members and does not expect any opposition.
A new resolution is "very important" to prevent Iraq's financial assets, oil shipments and property from being seized by governments, companies or individuals with legal judgments dating back to Saddam Hussein's 23-year rule, he said.
"The government needs this money to continue its security, political, economic programs," Zebari said. "We have reached a very critical stage of stabilization. We cannot squander these gains because of the lack of resources."
Revenues from Iraq's oil and natural gas exports, which account for at least 90 percent of the country's income, are held in the Development Fund for Iraq, set up in 2003. It has about $20 billion, from which the Iraqi government withdraws as needed. The Iraqi central bank's foreign reserves, more than $40 billion, are in another fund.
The draft resolution would continue the Development Fund for Iraq and authorize the International Advisory and Monitoring Board to keep overseeing the fund until Dec. 31, 2009.
It would extend a provision in a 2003 Security Council resolution stating that "petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas originating in Iraq shall be immune ... from legal proceedings against them and not be subject to any form of attachment, garnishment or execution."
Zebari stressed that in order for Iraq to regain "its full sovereign status, it has in the coming years to settle many of the legitimate legal claims."
The draft resolution cites a commitment from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "to resolve the debts and settle the claims inherited from the previous regime, and to continue to address those debts and claims until they are resolved or settled."
It asks "the continued assistance of the international community as the government of Iraq works to complete this process."
Zebari said Iraq will have to decide whether it's going to settle these claims through arbitration, government-to-government arrangements or paying a lump sum to victims, as Libya did for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
On the issue of sovereignty, the draft resolution calls for a review of all resolutions on Iraq following Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait to consider what Security Council actions will be needed "for Iraq to achieve the status it enjoyed prior to the adoption of such resolutions."
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