UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations is considering scrapping sanctions imposed on Iraq during Saddam Hussein\'s regime before the 2003 US-led invasion.
Ban, on a surprise visit to Iraq, met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and senior officials to discuss the issue, one day after allies of the Shi\'ite premier swept to victory in provincial elections.
"The UN is in the process of reviewing all the resolutions and on my return I will discuss this issue with the Security Council," Ban said at a joint press conference with the prime minister.
Maliki said: "We discussed the ending of UN sanctions on Iraq, which were (imposed) after the aggression of the previous regime.
We asked for a review of all the resolutions imposed on Iraq so we can return to the rank of normal nations."
Financial sanctions most damaging
The UN slapped comprehensive sanctions on Iraq after Saddam\'s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Many were lifted after 2003, but an arms embargo and some financial restrictions were left in place.
Up to 1.7 million Iraqis may have died as a result of the penalties, which savaged the economy and crippled the country\'s health care system, according to a previous UN report.
Ban met President Jalal Talabani soon after his arrival in the Iraqi capital. "I came to Iraq today in order to congratulate the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government after last Saturday\'s provincial elections," Ban said.
"The success of election day augurs well for the transition process and the solidifying of Iraq\'s national reconciliation."
Election results spur reconsideration
His visit came after preliminary results of Saturday\'s election showed candidates backed by Maliki dominated a poll that is expected to reshape Iraq\'s fractured political landscape.
Maliki described the poll result as "a success for all Iraqis".
"Sure, there are changes to the political map, because the citizens voted to see the changes," said the Shi\'ite prime minister, who has adopted a notably secular political outlook.
Maliki did not stand in the elections but threw his backing behind candidates from the country\'s State of Law Coalition, which polled highly in Baghdad and in eight of Iraq\'s nine Shi\'ite provinces.
The coalition\'s win lays the early groundwork ahead of parliamentary polls in about a year.
The UN provided the Independent High Electoral Commission with assistance in organising the poll, which was held in 14 of 18 provinces.
Vote a marker of progress
Just over half of the Iraqi electorate voted in the ballot, which was seen as a vital test of the country\'s progress since the US-led invasion ousted Saddam from power almost six years ago.
The poll was seen as a sign of progress as they passed off without major violence.
The UN greatly reduced its presence in Iraq after a suicide truck bombing against its Baghdad headquarters in 2003 killed 22 people, including its top Iraq envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Ban\'s visit was his first since the expiry at the end of last year of a UN mandate put in place soon after the March 2003 invasion and hailed as a major step towards Iraq regaining full sovereignty.
After the invasion, the Security Council established the mandate of the multinational forces to maintain security in the country.