WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is drawing up a plan to allow the United Nations Security Council to remove some sanctions against Iraq to allow Baghdad to sell petroleum for the purchase of food and medicine, the payment of war reparations and the cost of destroying weapons, senior administration officials say.
Officials said yesterday that Secretary of State James A. Baker III was expected to approve it. It would also need President Bush's approval before it could be presented to the Security Council tomorrow as the basis for a resolution.
If the Bush administration puts the plan forward, as many officials expect, it would represent a major shift in policy.
Currently, Iraq is not allowed to sell its oil because of stringent U.N. sanctions imposed after the invasion of Kuwait.
Administration officials said the examination of a new approach reflects a growing realization that the postwar economic strangulation was hurting the Iraqi people rather than weakening President Saddam Hussein's grip on power.
The plan is a response to reports by independent medical teams, U.N. officials and the news media of widespread malnutrition and disease in Iraq, as well as an attempt to counter calls for a more sweeping removal of economic sanctions, the officials said.
"We don't want to see more reports about massive starvation and disease in Iraq," said one senior administration official who is working on the plan.
The sanctions review comes at an uncomfortable time for the administration, which charged again yesterday that Iraq has not disclosed all the details of its secret nuclear program.