United Nations mandates imposed on Iraq as a result of the 1991 and 2003 wars, including those relating to weapons of mass destruction and nuclear power, were lifted at a meeting in New York of the Security Council.
“Its people have known tremendous hardship. They continue to struggle with insecurity and appalling violence. They lack jobs and basic services. But today we recognise how far the country has come in key aspects of its journey to normalise its status in the community of nations,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.
The council also gave Iraq the green light to develop a civilian nuclear programme, ending 19-year-old restrictions aimed at preventing the country from developing atomic weapons.
"The adoption of these important resolutions marks the beginning of the end of the sanctions regime and restriction on Iraq's sovereignty, independence and recovery," Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told the council.
In the wake of its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was banned from importing chemical and nuclear technology that could be used in a atomic, chemical and biological weapons programme.
Those restrictions were in place for two decades.
While the news opens the door for Iraq to develop a civilian nuclear programme, Iraq is expected to sign on to a slew of international treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Under the NPT, Iraq will be subject to unannounced spot checks on any nuclear activities.
The meeting also saw the termination of the oil-for-food programme, which stipulated that Saddam Hussein’s regime was only allowed to sell oil in order to raise funds for humanitarian purposes. The initiative will be phased out by June 2011.
Chairing the meeting, US vice president Joe Biden said the council was committed to “Iraq’s independence [and] sovereignty”, but called on the country to fulfill its obligations to Kuwait, including reparations for the 1990 invasion.
Baghdad will keep paying five percent of its oil revenues as war reparations, most of it to Kuwait, despite Iraq's calls for a renegotiation of those payments so it can use more of its oil money for must-needed development projects.
Around $22bn is still due.
The US has confirmed that it plans to withdraw its remaining troops from Iraq in 2011 and elections are due to be held in Iraq on January 18.
“The United Nations is eager to be part of this wide-ranging drive to normalisation,” Mr Ban added.
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