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U.N. Vote on Iraq Postponed

Russia asks for time to confer with allies before Security Council decides on the U.S. resolution.

October 16, 2003|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — While assuring the United States of its support, Russia asked to delay a Security Council vote until today on U.S. plans for Iraq's future to give more time for leaders of Russia, France, and Germany to confer.

Russia, France and Germany had jointly proposed amendments to the U.S. resolution Tuesday and pledged to vote together as a bloc. Russia said it would support the measure after Washington incorporated Russia's key requests following two days of intense negotiations.

It was unclear Wednesday night whether Germany and France would join Russia -- or somehow swing Russia back. But China also indicated it would support the resolution.

That makes a near consensus on the once-controversial resolution seem likely just a week after Washington considered withdrawing it. Syria has signaled that it would vote against it because of regional resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.

"I think I can safely say we see a positive movement toward a greater consensus in the council on the basis of the U.S. text," said U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte.

The U.S. resolution, co-sponsored by Britain and Cameroon, seeks to pave the way for more international help in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq. Though its adoption is not likely to bring significant new troops or money right away, its passage would represent a major philosophical shift among Security Council nations that opposed the war and were initially reluctant to be involved with the occupation.

Russian ambassador Sergei V. Lavrov said Wednesday evening that he was satisfied that Russia's requests had been "accepted 99%." Russia, on behalf of France and Germany, had asked to end the mission of a proposed multinational force in Iraq when a new internationally recognized government is sworn in. The multinational force could stay on if the new regime asks to extend its presence.

The Security Council would review the force's mandate after a year and would have to approve its continued presence under the new government.

The three permanent members also wanted a stronger role for the U.N. secretary-general's office to help guide Iraq's transition to self-rule, a provision that was lacking in earlier drafts. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that he would support the resolution but would not send more staff to Iraq until the violence has abated.

Annan had asked that the council unite behind a resolution, even if it is not the one he prefers, saying that plans with a real consensus have a better chance of making an impact.

Two weeks ago, Annan had urged that the U.S. end the occupation within a few months and shift power to a provisional government to help quell the growing resistance. The U.S. refused, saying the interim government was not yet ready for the responsibility and a power vacuum would further destabilize the country. But Annan's objections paralyzed the council, until the U.S. came back with new concessions this week.

Lee Feinstein, a former State Department official now at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the administration seemed determined to limit the role of the United Nations in Iraq, fearing that it would get in the way. Winning the vote may not necessarily bring real changes.

"The U.N. will has been pronounced on Iraq three times ... and in none of the three instances has the resolution brought the U.N. closer together or helped to internationalize support for the reconstruction," he said.

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Times staff writer Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.

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