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UNITED NATIONS (AP) The United States will introduce a resolution Friday calling for the United Nations to lift sanctions on Iraq immediately and phase out the oil-for-food aid program over the next four months, diplomats said Thursday.
But the proposal already faces opposition from Russia and France, raising concerns about another divisive diplomatic fray like the one that preceded the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein.
The U.S. resolution also would create an international advisory board, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to audit the spending of income from Iraq's oil industry and to ensure it is benefiting the Iraqi people, the council diplomats said. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
Annan would be asked to appoint a special coordinator for Iraq to be based in Baghdad to oversee U.N. involvement in rebuilding efforts, the diplomats said.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte asked the Security Council to schedule consultations Friday to circulate the U.S. draft.
President Bush ordered U.S. sanctions against Iraq lifted Wednesday, allowing U.S. humanitarian aid and remittances to flow into Iraq.
The U.N. resolution proposed by Washington would completely lift the crippling economic sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to the 1991 Gulf War, although the arms embargo would remain in place.
Russia and France, which both had lucrative contracts with Saddam's government under the oil-for-food program -- which began in 1996 to help Iraqi civilians -- have not been in a hurry to end it.
The United States also could face opposition from council members who want the world body to be a major player in creating an interim government for Iraq. U.S. officials have insisted that Washington and its allies in the war must remain in the lead.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said Wednesday that Moscow only wants a suspension of the embargoes on food and medicine.
Russia has circulated its own draft resolution calling for Annan to run the oil-for-food program until an internationally recognized Iraqi government comes to power.
Phasing out the oil-for-food program over four months -- as the United States wants -- would end U.N. control over Iraq's oil revenues. The United States wants to use the money to pay for Iraq's reconstruction.
U.N. humanitarian programs that have been operating under the oil-for-food program would end as well, although U.N. officials already have started setting up new aid programs in Iraq. The program had been feeding up to 90 percent of Iraq's 24 million people before the war.
No date has been set for a vote on the resolution, but Security Council diplomats are working against a June 3 deadline when the current six-month phase of the oil-for-food program expires.
Many council members have said they want to avoid more bruising diplomatic confrontations. But emotions are still raw from the dispute over the war, which saw the United States, Britain and Spain backing an invasion of Iraq and France, Russia, Germany and China opposing military action.
Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell adopted a conciliatory tone Wednesday and stressed the importance of putting aside past differences and uniting to help Iraqi rebuild.
In Washington, Bush insisted "the mood that existed before the war has changed and people want to work together for the good of the Iraqi people."
Powell told the Foreign Policy Association's annual dinner Wednesday night that the U.S. resolution "can bring us all together to give the Iraqi people a better life and hope for a much brighter future." He received the association's medal along with Javier Solana, the European Union's security and foreign policy chief.
Germany indicated that it might not be an obstacle this time and would work with the United States.
"I think the general mood in the council now is that the war that we didn't want is over now, and that's a fact you cannot change," said Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger. "So let us not repeat the debates of yesterday and look forward and solve the problems that are at hand in the interests of the Iraqi people."
France, meanwhile, proposed suspending the sanctions, phasing out the oil-for-food program and having U.S. and U.N. inspectors work together. Its proposal would not lift sanctions until a legitimate Iraqi government is in place.
Under council resolutions, U.N. inspectors must certify that Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs have been eliminated along with the long-range missiles to deliver them before sanctions can be lifted.
The United States has deployed its own inspection teams to search for weapons of mass destruction and don't want U.N. inspectors to return any time soon.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)