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Resolution on Iraq Aims to Win Troops, Money

New draft offers some compromises, but diplomats say the basic approach is unchanged.

October 02, 2003|Maggie Farley and Robin Wright | Times Staff Writers

UNITED NATIONS — The United States informally circulated a new draft resolution on Iraq to key Security Council members Wednesday that includes changes, among them an unofficial timetable for Iraqi self-rule, designed to win more troops and money for rebuilding the country.

Although Washington is unwilling to give up much control or change the basic framework of a political transition, it is offering the compromises as a way to address demands by France and other countries for a quick shift of sovereignty.

But diplomats say the essence of the U.S. approach remains the same, making them skeptical that the new draft will transform attitudes toward the U.S.-led occupation -- both in and outside Iraq -- and speed stabilization. Several countries, including France, had said they would have abstained if the previous U.S. draft had come to a vote, and the U.S. is working hard to win the support of all 15 council members.

The fastest way to change the environment, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last week, is to end the occupation. "The longer they stay on as an occupation force, the greater the opposition will become," Annan said in an interview published by the Sunday Times of London.

The new version of the U.S. proposal contains several concessions designed to convince Iraqis and potential donors that the occupation is temporary and that the country will be back in Iraqi hands sooner rather than later. It does not set out a specific schedule for a political transition, but instead asks the Iraqi Governing Council to come up with a timetable with guidance from the occupation authorities and the United Nations.

The Governing Council may be able to provide a timetable that "is believable and can strive for what we all want to achieve, but does not go into the Security Council resolution," said a senior U.S. official. "It could serve as a gentlemen's agreement. It would give others on the Security Council a sense of what we're trying to do and when, but prevents us from being beaten over the head if the timetable doesn't meet all its goals."

Instead of bowing to requests by France and others for an immediate restoration of Iraqi sovereignty, the U.S. has stood by its sequence for a transfer of power: The drafting of a constitution, a referendum to ratify it and eventual elections. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Friday at the U.N. that he thought the elections could be held about a year after work started on the constitution. But he emphasized that the U.S. was not setting a deadline.

Representatives of the 24-member Governing Council differ on whether it's possible to create a new government in a year. The most important factor is security, acting Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Wednesday at the Brookings Institution. In a best-case scenario, he said, it could be done. But he said he foresaw a process leading to sovereignty, not establishing sovereignty first.

"We need to accelerate the political process, but do it in a gradual way," Zebari said. "We are looking into ways of convening a constitutional conference that gives Iraqis hope."

Iraqis also need time to decide on the shape of their government, he said. "The two issues that are so critical to Iraqis now are what kind of federal system they will have and the role of Islam in society. And there are very deep differences over both."

In response to Annan's requests, the resolution attempts to more specifically define the role of the United Nations envoy and the mission in Iraq. It refers to the two sections of Annan's July report on Iraq that outline the roles that the U.N. can best play, including guiding the political transition, organizing elections and continuing humanitarian work.

To persuade other countries that they could be helping Iraq, not just the United States, by sending troops, the resolution portrays a multinational force as the necessary backing for a smooth political process. Although the international force would be under U.S. command, it would report to the Security Council every six months.

After an internationally recognized government assumes full authority, the council would review the force's mission to decide whether it should continue.

Although most council members agree that the U.S. should command a force, few are willing to send troops to a hostile area if they are seen as part of an occupation force.

"The only way to end opposition to the occupation is to end the occupation," said a council diplomat. "And the Americans don't want to do that."

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