The UN Security Council [official website] on Wednesday voted to remove sanctions [news release] imposed on Iraq between 1991 and 2003 during the country's wars under former Iraqi dictator Suddam Hussein [JURIST news archive]. The Security Council approved three resolutions [fact sheet, PDF] that eliminated the Development Fund for Iraq, lifted sanctions prohibiting civil nuclear projects and ended the controversial Oil-for-Food program [official website; JURIST news archive]. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] praised the decision [statement] as a "milestone" and said that the Council "recognize[d] how far the country has come in key aspects of its journey to normalize its status in the community of nations," particularly Iraq's participation in international anti-nuclear proliferation treaties. US Vice President Joe Biden [official profile] chaired the meeting and commended [statement] the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) [official website] for its work in providing relief to the Iraqi people, a job that will likely continue as the US plans to withdraw troops from the country. The US will hold the Security Council presidency for the month of December.
The most recent UN Security Council resolutions mark a turning point for Iraq and an end to the UN oil-for-food program that generated international scandals. In July, General Electric Co. (GE) [corporate website] agreed to a $23.5 million settlement [press release; JURIST report] after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] filed a complaint [text, PDF] accusing GE of bribing Iraqi officials to receive contracts under the oil-for-food program. The SEC claimed that, between 2000 and 2003, four of GE's subsidiaries gave millions of dollars worth of computer equipment, medical supplies and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry in exchange for contract deals. In April, a Paris judge charged [JURIST report] French oil company Total [corporate website] with bribery and complicity in connection with the scandal. According to the 2005 Volcker report, published by a UN-appointed Independent Inquiry Committee [official website] investigating corruption in the oil-for-food program, oil companies like Total allegedly paid Iraqi officials over $1.5 billion in illegal kickbacks [materials] in exchange for being selected as oil purchasers. Over the last three years, oil company Chevron [corporate website] also paid a large settlement to the SEC concerning misuse of the program, and two Texan oil barons, David Chalmers and Oscar Wyatt Jr. [JURIST reports], were sentenced to prison for their roles in the scandal. The oil-for-food program allowed the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, under UN sanctions in the wake of the first Gulf War, to sell limited stocks of oil in return for foodstuffs and other humanitarian supplies.