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U.S. Eases Iraq Sanctions

The government said Wednesday it was lifting some longstanding economic sanctions against Iraq to help efforts to rebuild the country and provide humanitarian aid.

Treasury Secretary John Snow announced the action, which he said followed instructions by President Bush.

"The easing of U.S. sanctions will bring much needed aid and humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives after more than two decades of brutal dictatorship," Snow said.

Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which has been enforcing the sanctions against Iraq, will be lifting certain restrictions, he said. The action will allow humanitarian aid funded by the United States as well as privately funded aid to flow to the country and allow people in the United States to send up to $500 a month to friends and family in Iraq.

However, the export of certain goods controlled for national security purposes will require a special government license, Snow said.

A wide range of economic sanctions on Iraq have been in place since Aug. 2, 1990, following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The sanctions were ordered by the first President Bush.

Now that Saddam is out of power, U.S. officials say some of the restrictions are no longer needed.

The U.N. Security Council imposed its own sanctions after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Those were modified in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil to pay for humanitarian goods and reparations for the first Gulf War. That oil-for-food program expires June 3.

Russia and France, which opposed the latest war, have indicated that they don't want to rush an end to the sanctions.

Russia is pushing a plan that would suspend sanctions on goods, including food and medicine, according to the Interfax news agency.

Asked why the United States didn't wait for the United Nations to lift its sanctions on Iraq, Snow replied: "Well, there is no requirement to do so, and we want to get on with the humanitarian and reconstruction program."

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