UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to end the possible military enforcement of several requirements imposed on Iraq in the wake of its 1990 invasion of Kuwait — including searching for missing Kuwaitis and looted property — in recognition of the improved relations between the two countries.

The sound of celebratory gunfire and fireworks reverberated across the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, after the council vote was announced and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the nation in a televised address that people deserved to celebrate "after a long period of suffering" under international sanctions.

"Iraq has now become free of the chains that were put on it due to the foolishness of the repressive regime" of Saddam Hussein whose forces invaded Kuwait, al-Maliki said. "Now, new horizons and big hopes for a better future have begun as the chains are being broken and the crippling U.N. sanctions become history."

Iraq had been lobbying for years to get rid of all U.N. sanctions and requirements under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be militarily enforced. This involved more than 70 resolutions adopted by the Security Council during and after Saddam's war against Kuwait.

But there appeared to be a difference of opinion on whether all Chapter 7 measures have now been terminated.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who addressed the council after the vote, told members that by adopting the resolution "Iraq has fulfilled all its obligations in the resolutions of the Security Council under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter."

"This date of June 27, 2013 will be a landmark in the history of the relationship between Iraq and the international community indicating that the resolutions under Chapter 7 of the charter imposed on Iraq has become a page of the past," he said.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the current Security Council president, called the vote "an historic step" in the normalization of the relationship between Iraq and the international community but told reporters later that Iraq still has some Chapter 7 obligations including a conventional arms ban, the freeze and return of Saddam-era assets, and the prohibition on trade in stolen Iraqi cultural property.

"The council will need to be working its way through those over the next few years," he said.

Lyall Grant said Iraq must also continue paying war reparations.

A June 26 report to the council said Iraq continues to pay 5 percent of its oil and gas revenues into the U.N. Compensation Fund for reparations and only one claim, for $11.2 billion from the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, remains to be paid. Based on current income to the fund, it said this should be paid in full by spring 2015.

In December 2010, the council lifted sanctions on Iraqi weapons and civilian nuclear power and authorized the return of the country's oil and natural gas revenue to the government. But it left several Chapter 7 measures in place, including an Iraq-Kuwait boundary dispute, the fate of missing Kuwaitis and third country nationals, looted Kuwaiti property and Iraqi reparations.

Relations between Shiite-led Iraq and Sunni-ruled Kuwait, a close U.S. ally, took a step forward last year when Kuwait's ruling emir traveled to Baghdad to attend an Arab League summit. A deal was reached to settle a Saddam-era legal dispute that had long dogged Iraq's national airline and was a major sticking point between the countries, and this year the two countries established a joint committee to deal with demarcation of their border.

The resolution adopted Thursday welcomed Iraq's continued demonstration of its commitments to implement all outstanding obligations under the Chapter 7 resolutions, including paying compensation, as well as both countries' efforts to advance regional stability. It also recognized the "significantly different" situation in Iraq now and "the importance of Iraq achieving international standing equal to that which it held prior" to Saddam's 1990 invasion.

The resolution terminates the Chapter 7 provisions on missing Kuwaitis and others, and on looted property. Instead, it authorizes the U.N. political mission in Iraq to monitor and report on Iraqi efforts to find the missing people and property, including Kuwait's national archives, under Chapter 6 of the U.N. Charter, which deals with peaceful settlement of disputes.


Associated Press Writers Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad and Alexandra Olson in New York contributed to this report.