WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration's decision to lift a U.N. ban on the export of consumer goods to Iraq marks a success for Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Powell's ace in the hole was early support from President Bush, but it took four months of bureaucratic infighting for the policy shift to emerge this week.
Even now, debate continues within the government on the kind of items with potential military use that could be cleared for export to Iraq and those that will remain restricted.
Within the United Nations, meanwhile, where the United States and Britain would like a new resolution approved next week by the Security Council, there is still widespread disagreement
Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Thursday the Pentagon was reluctant to run the risk of approving Iraq's purchase of many so-called dual use items.
But Powell, who favored a lenient approach in the larger interest of easing living conditions for the Iraqi people, appeared to be prevailing.
Since 1990, the United States had waged a campaign to deny Iraq consumer goods in the hope that the plight of the Iraqi people would cause them to turn against President Saddam Hussein.
Lining up with Britain, which stood virtually alone with the United States on maintaining harsh sanctions, the Bush administration also is urging tighter controls on export to Iraq of arms and weapons-related items.
Norway joined the United States and Britain in backing the move. But Russia and China said they were not ready to support it. French officials said the proposal included ideas they have raised in the past year, but they want to see a final text before deciding.
Iraq, meanwhile, flatly rejected the proposal. It wants a complete end to all sanctions.
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