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Posted by D from ( on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 at 10:56PM :

Syria, the only Arab member of the Security Council, said Friday it was signing up to the UN vote lifting sanctions on Iraq for the sake of the Iraqi people but upheld its opposition to the US-led war.

"Instructions have been given to the Syrian delegation at the United Nations to communicate Syria's support for (Security Council) Resolution 1483," which passed on Thursday, the state news agency SANA said.

"Out of concern to improve the living conditions of the brotherly Iraqi people, subjected to many years of an unjust embargo, Syria has decided to vote in favor of the resolution," it added.

But Syria "believes this (resolution) is not sufficient to make Iraqis the masters of their own destiny and natural resources.

"The vote in favor of this resolution does not mean Syria has changed its stand on the war against Iraq and still considers it was an illegal war which led to the occupation of a country by force."

The council Thursday voted 14-0 to pass the amended US-British draft resolution, which lifted 13 years of sanctions on Iraq in force since its invasion of Kuwait.

But according to Syrian officials, when the vote was taken the Syrian government was still discussing the text.

A European diplomat in the Syrian capital on Friday explained that Damascus did not want to find itself isolated, despite its previous criticisms of the draft resolution.

"Syria realized its attitude Thursday in the Security Council isolated it from the rest of the international community, and left it out of step with France, Russia and Germany that supported the lifting of the sanctions despite their opposition to the war in Iraq," the diplomat said.

"In the current circumstances, and as it is still in the US firing line, Damascus has understood it can no longer take hardline positions, and has decided to join the ranks," he added, requesting anonymity.

The day before the vote, Syria's official Ath-Thawra newspaper took a swipe at the draft resolution, accusing Britain, Spain and the United States of "aiming to control the riches of Iraq ... which was also the aim in the occupation of Iraq."

Under the new resolution, Iraq's oil revenues will be put into a new development fund to be held by the central bank and spent on reconstruction and humanitarian needs at the direction of the US and British occupying powers.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, Egypt and Jordan on Friday welcomed the new UN resolution.

Egypt's government spokesman Nabil Osman said, "We didn't care much for (Saddam Hussein's) regime ... Alleviate the burden for the Iraqis, this was our persistent position."

But President Hosni Mubarak's political adviser, Osama al-Baz, said Egypt wanted the formation of an Iraqi government "as soon as possible".

Jordan "supports the lifting of sanctions and we are glad that the Security Council has been able to agree on this", the kingdom's Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher told AFP.

Syria's deputy UN ambassador Fayssal Mekdad said the vote was taken on Thursday despite a Syrian request for more time to discuss the resolution with the government in Damascus.

Syria had also requested more time to consult fellow Arab countries, but the request was denied, he later told BBC radio.

But after the vote, US ambassador John Negroponte told reporters, "My understanding is that Syria could associate itself with the vote by writing a letter to the president of the council."

It is not yet known whether Syria's acceptance of the resolution will be formally counted as a vote in the council.

Washington raised the pressure on Syria following the war in Iraq, calling on it to close down the offices of Palestinian militant groups in Damascus, and accusing it of pursuing chemical weapons programs.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who visited Damascus in early May, also pressed Syrian leaders to end support for the Shiite Muslim radical group Hezbollah in Lebanon.


-- D
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