The US and the UK have been working over the past 12 months to persuade Russia and China to back the new sanctions system. Russian support was secured after the US pledged to lift its block on some $750 million in Russian contracts with Iraq. Beijing has also been swayed by the smooth passage of a number of infrastructure contracts for Chinese companies.

The key element in the new system has been the creation of a goods review list of items deemed to have potential dual military and civilian use. All non-military goods not on the list will be allowed into Iraq after a quick check. Those goods on the list will be screened by the UN Monitoring & Verification Commission (Unimovic) and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iraq has opposed the new sanctions system. However, European diplomats say Baghdad is not expected to place any practical obstacles in the way of trade.

Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Naji Sabri returned to Baghdad on 5 May after talks in New York with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the issue of deploying Unimovic inspectors in Iraq. He said the talks had been constructive, and fresh discussions are to be arranged.

Iraq on 9 May resumed oil exports after a one-month embargo.