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Iraq FM: U.N. sanctions need to end

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Iraq FM: U.N. sanctions need to end

Nearly two decades after the first Gulf war and six years after Saddam Hussein was removed from power, Iraq still is subject to 73 United Nations resolutions.

Now Iraq’s foreign minister says his country “will not regain full sovereignty and independence without getting rid of these resolutions.”

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Hoshyar Zebari said Monday that Iraq has paid “billions” of dollars under Chapter 7 of the U.N. sanctions placed on Iraq as a result of the 1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait and subsequent war.

The U.N. Security Council is reviewing the sanctions, and Zebari said he had “intensive discussions” in New York with members of the Security Council. He said “I think the outcome is positive.”

“We felt a great deal of good will that, really, time has come for Iraq to get rid of all these restrictions and to regain its international standing and position as a normal country.”

The Iraqi foreign minister said bringing Iraq out of Chapter 7 is an “American commitment also” since Iraq signed the status of forces agreement with the United States, which governs the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, based on its understanding that the U.S. would help Iraq to come out of Chapter 7.

Foreign Minister Zebari said the sanctions impose a heavy burden on Iraq — it continues to pay 5 percent of its oil revenues to Kuwait, down from the initial 30 percent.

Iraq’s security forces, he told reporters, have “proven they are capable of defending themselves and the country.” In the next six months, however, he said, the country faces some risks.

“What can be seen as problems could become crises unless this administration keeps its focus and support to push the situation forward; otherwise this overall strategy of responsible redeployment could be undermined.”

If that happens, Zebari said, it “will impact what the U.S. is doing in the Middle East, in the Arab peace process, with Iran, even in Afghanistan because Iraq is such a crucial player in the region.”

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Suspected North Korea weapons ship heads home

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The Kang Nam I, a N.Korean ship, is pictured near Lantau Island in Hong Kong in this October 24, 2006 file photo. A N.Korean ship tracked by the U.S. Navy on suspicion of carrying a banned arms cargo is expected to return home on Monday after a voyage that tested UN sanctions aimed at punishing Pyongyang for its May nuclear test.

Suspected North Korea weapons ship heads home

SEOUL (Reuters) – A North Korean ship tracked by the U.S. Navy on suspicion of carrying a banned arms cargo is expected to return home on Monday after a voyage that tested U.N. sanctions aimed at punishing Pyongyang for its May nuclear test.

The ship’s return may decrease tensions that were raised after North Korea fired seven ballistic missiles on Saturday in an act of defiance towards the United States on its Independence Day.

The ageing cargo ship Kang Nam, which set sail in mid June, was headed back to North Korea and is expected to arrive on Monday, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said.

Local dailies said it was headed for the North’s port of Nampo after a journey that took it close to Myanmar.

A U.S. envoy coordinating the enforcement of U.N. sanctions on the North held talks in Malaysia with officials. South Korean dailies said the discussions focused on possibly shutting down bank accounts used by the North for suspected illicit deals.

“The Obama administration has uncovered suspicious North Korean bank accounts in Malaysia,” the Joongang Ilbo newspaper quoted a diplomatic source in Washington as saying.

A Malaysian official had described the visit by U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg as “routine”.

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said: “We are not going to act on every accusation that is being levelled at us because that would be virtually impossible but if they have evidence we will be most willing to work together to solve this problem.”

Goldberg last week discussed enforcing sanctions with China, the North’s biggest benefactor whose participation is essential for the punishment to take effect.

The U.N. sanctions imposed after the North’s nuclear test were aimed at halting its arms trade, which is a vital source of foreign currency for the cash-short state. They also called on states to clamp down on the North’s suspected arms shipments.

South Korea’s stock market opened mostly flat on Monday, brushing off the barrage of missiles in a typical display of indifference to the North’s military actions in recent years.

“Stocks tend to react somewhat the first time around, but after a series of launches, tend to grow indifferent,” said Lim Dong-min, a market analyst at KB Investment & Securities.

South Korea’s main stock index has risen by 1.7 percent since the May 25 nuclear test but major military moves by the North can spark short-lived and sharp falls in stocks.

MISSILE TEST AND SANCTIONS

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden dismissed North Korea’s recent missile launches as predictable and said in a TV interview aired on Sunday it was part of “attention-seeking” behaviour by the reclusive state.

Analysts said the missile test may be related to the U.N. sanctions because the North wants to show its customers, who face greater risks in purchasing missiles, that its products are reliable and accurate.

“North Korea has been making profits through arms trading and this could also have been a test to measure their force,” Dongguk University professor Koh Yu-hwan said. “They want to test their performance on how much they have developed in the past months.”

North Korea appears to have launched five Scud missiles, which could hit anywhere in South Korea, and two mid-range Rodong missiles, that could strike most of Japan, in the salvo fired on Saturday, South Korean officials told reporters.

The missiles flew as far as 420 km (260 miles) and displayed greater precision than previously shown, one official said.

Defence Ministry spokesman Won said the North had “greatly improved” the accuracy of its missiles.

A senior South Korean official quoted by the Dong-A Ilbo daily said: “They showed the North is capable of dealing a serious blow to military command centres, airfields and major government installations throughout the South.”

“The level of threat is of an entirely different scale when compared to previous launches of surface-to-ship and surface-to-air missiles.”

The Scud and Rodong are ballistic missiles. Their launch would mark an escalation by the North, which has fired several non-ballistic, short-range missile since the May 25 nuclear test.

North Korea is barred by U.N. resolutions from firing ballistic missiles. It has more than 600 Scud type missiles and 300 Rodong missiles which have been deployed and target U.S. allies South Korea and Japan, defence officials have said.

(Additonal reporting by Christine Kim in Seoul and Razak Ahmad in Kuala Lumpur)

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SCENARIOS – North Korea tensions set to simmer

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Philip Goldberg, the U.S. envoy who coordinates sanctions on North Korea, talks to journalists after a meeting at the Central Bank office in Kuala Lumpur July 6, 2009.

SCENARIOS – North Korea tensions set to simmer

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea raised regional tensions with a defiant ballistic missile launch at the weekend that came as the United States pressed sanctions to punish Pyongyang for its nuclear test in May.

Following are some scenarios at how current tensions may play out:

CONSTANT SIMMER OVER SUMMER

– North Korea launches further military moves seen as provocations by outside world through summer in North Asia.

– More missile launches likely, including ballistic and short-range.

– May try to test U.N. sanctions to halt arms trade imposed after nuclear test by sending cargo ships abroad.

– Good chance North Korea will test fire its long range Taepodong-2 missile, which could hit U.S. territory but has not had a successful test flight. Pyongyang backed itself into corner by saying in its state media it would fire one unless the U.N. apologised for punishing it for an April launch of similar rocket.

– North may try to spark a small-scale skirmish with the South near a disputed sea border.

NUCLEAR TEST

– The North could conduct a third nuclear test, which is needed to help it build a working bomb and thus bring it closer to miniaturising a nuclear weapon to mount as a warhead on a missile. Experts said its first nuclear test in October 2006 was only a partial success because it had a low explosive force, indicating design flaws.

– Each test decreases the North’s already meagre supply of plutonium, thought before the May 25 test to be enough for six to eight weapons.

NUCLEAR ARMS PROGRAMME

– North Korea could resume all operations at its Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant. It has said it is already reprocessing plutonium at the plant that was being taken apart under a disarmament-for-aid deal.

PRESSURE TO INCREASE PUNISHMENTS

– Each move regarded as a provocation makes it more likely that China, the North’s biggest benefactor and trade partner, will be forced into greater cooperation with the sanctions regime. China is the key player for enforcement, analysts said.

– U.S. may move to punish banks thought to be helping the North in illicit activity. The U.S. Treasury brought North Korea’s international finances to a virtual halt in 2005 by cracking down on a Macau bank suspected of aiding the North’s illicit financial activities. Other banks, worried about being snared by U.S. financial authorities, steered clear of the North’s money.

– North Korea’s broken economy, with a yearly GDP estimated at about $17 billion, may buckle under the pressure. Any bad weather that effects farming could also send it into a tailspin.

RATCHETING DOWN PRESSURE

– Analysts said the North may look to return to international disarmament-for-aid talks toward the end of the year due to hit to its finances.

– North Korea firms up succession plans in Asia’s only communist dynasty, removing pressure on leader Kim Jong-il, 67 to increase internal support through military moves.

MAJOR CONFLICT

– Unlikely. Analysts say all-out war would be suicidal for Pyongyang because U.S. and South Korean forces would quickly defeat the North’s ill-equipped, 1.2-million-strong army.

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