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Maneuvering Room

The Security Council extended a U.N. humanitarian program in Iraq on Friday for one month, a move that gives the United States and Britain more time to sell their new sanctions proposal to other members on the council.

Having failed to win quick approval for their proposal, the English-speaking allies settled for something the other three powers — Russia, France and China — would accept. All 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the short-term extension.

The current oil-for-food program, which expires Sunday at midnight, is renewable for up to six months and is an exception to the 11-year-old sanctions against Iraq.

Baghdad rejected the council compromise and said it would not sign any new oil contracts over the next 30 days. On Friday, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz summoned the ambassadors of Russia, China and Tunisia to discuss the issue, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

The short-term extension, seen as a compromise, allowed all five permanent members of the council to claim victory in a vehement debate about the future of sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

A joint U.S.-British proposal, submitted May 22, aimed at allowing the free flow of civilian goods into Iraq while tightening the arms embargo — a bid to punish Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein while improving the quality of life for everyday citizens.

A counterproposal by Russia for a six-month extension of the oil-for-food program, with several additions designed to please Baghdad, was frowned upon by the United States and Britain. France and China said they needed more time to study the highly technical, U.S.-drafted lists of military-related items that could be banned from Iraq under the U.S.-British plan.

The subject of Iraq was expected to come up during a meeting in Washington on Friday between U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The short-term extension would keep the current program in operation until July 3. During that time, the council will discuss the major elements outlined in the U.S.-British draft, including improving the flow of civilian goods to Iraq, tightening controls on import of prohibited items and preventing illegal oil sales.

"We think there's a considerable body of support for the concept and for the substance that's contained in the resolution that we have been working on," said U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham.

Restructuring the sanctions against Iraq is among the U.S. government's foremost foreign policy initiatives.

Forged in secret, the U.S.-British plan sought to remove most restrictions on trade in consumer goods and materials for rebuilding public services. It would retain control of Iraqi oil profits through U.N.-administered escrow accounts. U.S. and British diplomats say the plan aims to prevent Saddam from rearming 10 years after the Persian Gulf War.

However, Western diplomats acknowledged that much needs to b done over the next 30 days to bridge differences among the Security Council heavyweights on the technical aspects — and some substantive issues — of the new plan.

Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri criticized the proposed one-month extension, saying Iraq would not sign any new oil contracts during the extension period. He also repeated Iraqi threats to cut the production of oil if the U.S.-British proposal is eventually approved

On Wednesday, Al-Douri called the short-term extension an American ploy and said Iraq wants an end to all sanctions. "We would not like any kind of partial renewal. This is a maneuver which is unacceptable to us and will not help the Iraqi people," he said.

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