| THE HAGUE
THE HAGUE Iraq's government could soon recognize Kuwait's borders and end two decades of U.N. sanctions imposed after former leader Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of its smaller neighbor, a U.N. special envoy said.
Despite the toppling of Saddam in 2003, the United Nations has not fully lifted sanctions imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which prompted the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War.
The Security Council adopted resolutions to start the dismantling of the sanctions in December and urged Baghdad to normalize ties with Kuwait.
Iraq still needs to reaffirm Kuwait's land and sea borders in a letter to the Security Council. Baghdad has asked Kuwait to address concerns over access to its port of Umm Qasr.
"It is obviously up to the parties to decide when and how, but we at the U.N. have been very much supporting and also encouraging this process, including by submitting suggestions, and I think we are now very close to finalizing it," U.N. special envoy Ad Melkert told Reuters late on Wednesday.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Foresight Forum, an expo in The Hague, Melkert pointed to an "historic" meeting between the foreign ministers of both countries late last month, which he said had resulted in a "very positive" outcome.
"All those issues have been discussed ... and I believe there is reason to be confident," he said.
Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abbawi told Reuters in Baghdad that those discussions covered all issues between Iraq and Kuwait, including the border issue. Iraq was not opposed to recognizing the border but a final mechanism for resolving it still needed to be agreed.
Besides Kuwait's borders there are other issues regarding Kuwait's archives and missing people. Iraq still owes Kuwait more than $20 billion in reparations and is required to pay 5 percent of its oil revenues in reparations, mainly to Kuwait.
Melkert said Kuwait had offered to use the money for investments in Iraq, which could prompt further interaction between the two nations in the near future.
Security and human rights concerns still plague Iraq. Melkert said a U.N. monitoring team had finally been allowed access to a camp of Iranian exiles following clashes between security forces and residents there last week.
Melkert, a former Dutch government minister, said it was good step that Iraq would investigate reports that 34 residents of the camp north of Baghdad were killed during the Iraqi operation.
(Additional reporting by Muhanad Mohammed in Baghdad; Editing by Peter Graff)