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U.S. May Pull Iraq Resolution

The measure seeking international support is meeting resistance in the U.N. and may not be necessary, officials say.

October 08, 2003|Robin Wright and Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Facing U.N. resistance to a resolution that seeks international support in Iraq -- but encouraged by signs that at least a few allies may be willing to help even without one -- U.S. officials are weighing whether to simply drop the draft resolution.

Although U.S. officials said Tuesday that they are pressing to pass a resolution before a donors conference this month in Madrid, they said they might pull the measure if it looks like it wouldn't bring significantly more money, troops or U.N. help.

"That has always been an option," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

The Turkish parliament's decision Tuesday to authorize sending thousands of troops to join U.S. forces in Iraq lessens the pressure on Washington to make significant concessions in its draft U.N. resolution, officials said.

"The goal all along has been to win international support, not necessarily a resolution," a U.S. official said Tuesday. "We're finding out now that we can get support from countries like Turkey without one."

The draft resolution includes some concessions to the U.N. leadership and Security Council allies with veto powers, among them an unofficial timetable for Iraqi self-rule and a leading U.N. role. But Washington is unwilling to give up much control or change the basic framework of a political transition.

Washington had hoped that a new resolution would change the political atmosphere -- paving the way for the U.S.-led operation in Iraq to gain global approval and eventual participation in ways that would allow the United States to decrease its military commitment.

But in a repeat of its two painful attempts to win U.N. consensus on Iraq, the United States is once again faced with haggling that has dragged out far longer than expected. And this time there is a third dimension in the debate: the U.N. itself.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan made it clear Thursday that he was unwilling to risk the lives of his staff to play a marginal role in Iraq. To prevent the U.N. from being confused with the occupation effort, Annan said that the world body would not share control of the political transition with the occupation. He urged the U.S. to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis within a few months to end the mounting hostility toward the U.S.-led forces. Until the situation stabilizes, the U.N. will forgo a supporting role, he said.

Annan's declaration has immobilized the Security Council. Although many of the council's 15 members say they want to help Iraq, they want to do it in a way that does not seem to be supporting the occupation -- or opposing the secretary-general. After a two-hour debate Monday, it was clear that the U.S. did not yet have the nine votes necessary for the resolution to pass.

The United States is now going back to the drawing board to consider the demands for a faster transfer of sovereignty.

"There were some specific and, we think, constructive suggestions that we heard yesterday, some that we'll look at very closely," State Department spokesman Boucher told reporters Tuesday. Specifically, the State Department thinks it can accommodate requests for more clarity about the U.N.'s role.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John D. Negroponte, repeated Tuesday that the U.S. is not willing to change the basic architecture of the occupation.

"What I told the council members is that if in the coming days we put forward a resolution with an idea to putting it to an early vote, that they shouldn't expect any significant or radical departures from the resolution they have before them," Negroponte said at a news conference.

Negroponte has said that the U.S. already has incorporated several major ideas from Annan and council members in the resolution, such as a multinational force, a timetable for the end of the occupation and a strengthened role for the U.N. He added that an official U.N. authorization of that force might encourage more countries to contribute troops and money.

"It's certainly our intent at this moment to press ahead with the resolution," he added.

It may be too difficult to negotiate, officials say, with the demands on the U.S. outweighing its potential gains. If the U.N. declines to play a major role, a resolution to further define U.N. tasks "will be superfluous," a State Department official said.

U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, argue that ending the occupation would not necessarily improve the security situation, and that handing over sovereignty to an Iraqi body too quickly probably would make it worse.

They also consider handing over control of the political transition to the U.N. a step backward in a process they say is progressing quickly.

But asked whether they are willing to leave the U.N. behind, U.S. officials say that they are not the ones turning their back on Iraq.

"The U.N. needs to be part of this. There's always been a vital role for it to play, and we want the resolution to further expand or solidify that role," the State Department official said Tuesday. "At the end of the day, it's up to the U.N. to decide whether they stay or walk away."

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