US vows to not take possession of Iraq’s oil stocks

Jan 23, 2003 01:00 AM

America would not take possession of Iraq’s oil stocks if it occupied the country after a war, US Secretary of State Colin Powell insisted. He said the oil would still belong to the Iraqi people and would not be exploited for US benefit. Mr Powell was meeting Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for talks in Washington amid signs of fracturing among the Western nations over the Iraq crisis.
Britain and the US have signalled their readiness to take unilateral military action after France and Germany voiced strong opposition to war. Mr Powell questioned the commitment of France and Germany to disarming Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein after both European allies publicly spoke out against an armed conflict. And China allied itself with the French position.

As disagreements over how to deal with Iraq deepened, Mr Powell said the US would hold Iraq’s oil fields "in trust" for the Iraqi people in the event of a US-led invasion. And he said US military forces would not want to run Iraq for long after any invasion, but would not speculate about how long US soldiers would to stay there. "There is no desire for the US armed forces to run a country for any length of time beyond that which is necessary to make sure that there is an appropriate form of government to take over from the initial military occupation," he said.
Meanwhile, it emerged President Bush has created a Pentagon-based office to help rebuild Iraq’s schools, roads and hospitals after any war. It is part of sweeping post-Saddam planning by the White House, which would include the US military seizing weapons of mass destruction, eliminating terrorist cells, maintaining civil order, and reforming Iraq’s security forces. National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said: "The US will be committed to stay as long as necessary to help the Iraqi people to get a good start in rebuilding their country, and will be equally committed to leave as soon as this objective has been achieved."

Earlier, President George Bush warned that any Iraqi who used weapons of mass destruction against US troops or Iraqi civilians would be tried for war crimes. While the US and Britain continued their military build-up in the Gulf, foreign ministers from Egypt and Iraq’s neighbours -- Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria -- are discussing ways of avoiding a war.
It is understood some of the countries want a declaration to include criticism of US aggression, as well as a strongly-worded demand that Saddam Hussein comply with United Nations resolutions. Turkey, a close ally of Washington, is believed to be considering American requests for military assistance should war come. British officials have been at pains to play down suggestions by "hawkish" elements in Washington that the delivery of a report by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix to the UN Security Council marks a deadline for the inspection process.

But the real differences have been between Britain and the US and the French and Germans. At the Franco-German summit, French President Jacques Chirac said war was "proof of failure" and that everything must be done to avoid it. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had previously voiced even stronger opposition to conflict. And China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue, said: "I think our position is extremely close to that of France. We are worried and uneasy about the large-scale military build-up."
France and China are among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and could use their veto to block any new resolution authorising military action against Iraq. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted that France and Germany were a "problem" but said that he believed most European countries backed the US stance.

In the Commons, Tony Blair made clear that Britain and the US would be prepared to launch unilateral strikes if opponents of war tried to stand in their way. Downing Street made clear that ministers would still prefer to see a new Security Council resolution before taking action.
But the growing mood of impatience in London and Washington will not have been eased by a complaint last night from Dr Blix that the Iraqis were trying to impose unacceptable conditions on U2 spy plane flights searching for hidden weapons. Forty-four Labour MPs used a technical vote at the end of a Commons debate on defence to register their opposition to war with Iraq. The total was down on the 56 Labour MPs who backed a similar motion last September.

Source: Scotsman.com
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