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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain, U.S. Remain Firm On Need for Iraq Pressure

LONDON -- The United States and Britain will make sure that tough economic sanctions imposed on Iraq more than five years ago remain in place despite Baghdad's oil deal with the United Nations, diplomats and analysts said Tuesday.

Iraq signed an accord with the United Nations on Monday that would allow it to sell limited quantities of oil to buy food and medicine after more than five years of crippling sanctions, imposed after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Baghdad's UN ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, said Iraq saw the agreement as "a chance to press for the full lifting of UN sanctions" and Iraqi newspapers hailed the deal as a sign that the international embargo was cracking.

But the jubilation may well be premature.

Washington and London believe that an end to all sanctions would allow President Saddam Hussein to rebuild his armed forces and once more pose a threat in the Gulf, the world's major oil-producing region.

They argue that Saddam -- who still apparently retains an iron grip on power -- has consistently deceived the international community over Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program and on other issues, and that he cannot be trusted.

Supported by important Western allies in the Gulf such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the United States and Britain can prevent any lifting of sanctions since they hold veto power on the UN Security Council.

"It is not in any UN resolution but both countries have made clear they will keep the pressure on Saddam and that it will not be taken off as long as he remains in power," said one Western diplomat, who asked not to be identified.

"There is no sign that sanctions will be lifted and indeed that may be why Iraq had no alternative but to accept the limited deal on offer," said Ailie Saunders of the Royal United Services Institute in London.

The United States and Britain both hailed Monday's deal, which will allow Baghdad to sell $2 billion worth of oil over six months to buy humanitarian goods, as long overdue and badly needed to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people.

But both also made it clear that there would be no end to the sanctions until Iraq complied with all of the UN resolutions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War which ended the occupation of Kuwait.

"It is hard to imagine this happening while Saddam remains in power," said British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind.

The other permanent members of the UN Security Council -- France, Russia and China -- also insist Iraq must comply with all resolutions.

Under these, Baghdad must prove that its weapons programs have been dismantled, return stolen property to Kuwait and account for hundreds of Kuwaitis still missing.

France and Russia, who argue that endless isolation of Iraq and targeting Saddam through sanctions will be counterproductive, take a softer line than the United States and Britain. They are also keen to resume trade with Baghdad.

The deal on limited oil sales was agreed after growing appeals from humanitarian organizations and aid agencies to ease the plight of ordinary Iraqis.

Now that they will be getting food and medicine, it may enable the United States and Britain to maintain their hardline position without coming under such pressure.