BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Declaring that sanctions against Iraq are "in a state of disarray," Secretary of State Colin Powell is calling for changes that would permit export to Iraq of more consumer goods while maintaining curbs on assistance to President Saddam Hussein's weapons program.
Powell said he hoped revisions could be completed before Arab leaders hold a summit meeting in Amman, Jordan, in late March.
"I think it gives us a stronger position to go to nations that might be tempted to send in prohibited weapons or prohibited materials," Powell said of the positive U.S. response to Arab complaints about the plight of the Iraqi people after more than a decade of the U.N. strictures.
Even so-called dual-use items, those with possible military application, such as water pumps and refrigeration equipment, may be cleared, he said.
"I have every reason to believe we are able to keep the box as tightly closed as we have the last 10 years, without receiving on our shoulders all the baggage that goes with it," Powell said.
Meanwhile, Powell sent Assistant Secretary of State Edward Walker to Turkey, Lebanon, Oman and the United Arab Emirates for talks with government leaders there on revised sanctions on Iraq.
Turkey is a neighbor of Iraq and Powell is trying to get front-line states to tighten leakage of illegal shipments to Baghdad even while the Bush administration goes about easing curbs on export of consumer goods.
Powell explained the shift in policy in separate meetings here with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.
Flying to Brussels on Monday night from Syria, the last stop on a three-day swing through the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, Powell also announced he had concluded a "solid agreement" with Syrian President Bashar Assad on a suspicious pipeline from Iraq's oilfields.
The pipeline problem has festered for months. Syria has resisted U.S. inquiries on reports that it was taking in Iraqi oil, selling its own and sharing the revenue with Baghdad in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Powell said Assad had promised he would submit to the U.N. sanctions committee both operations of the pipeline, which runs through Syria to the Mediterranean coast, and its revenues. Powell said President Bush told him he was pleased with the commitment.
Since 1996, Iraq has been allowed to sell its oil abroad only if the revenue were used for food, medicine and other humanitarian purposes. U.S. officials insist only about 20 percent of the revenue has been used that way.
In the meantime, Arabs have complained bitterly that the Iraqi people were bearing the brunt of the sanctions, which were kept in place after the 1991 Persian Gulf War to try to force Saddam to keep his promise to abandon dangerous weapons programs.
Powell said he was convinced in talks with Arab leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria that the sanctions regime could be modified for consumer and even some dual-use goods.
Powell also stressed that modifications in the sanctions must involve tightening of questionable exports to Iraq from Jordan and Syria.
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