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U.S. Secures U.N. Backing on Iraq Effort

The Security Council unanimously approves a resolution calling for a multinational force to help rebuild. But power stays with Washington.

October 17, 2003|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. won the unanimous but grudging adoption Thursday of its Security Council resolution designed to stabilize Iraq, but it was unclear how much the diplomatic victory would increase contributions of troops or money to rebuild the war-torn nation.

France, Russia, Germany and China reversed their long-standing opposition, voting more to show their unity in helping rebuild Iraq than their approval of the U.S. vision of how to do it. But to express their displeasure that some of their key demands had not been met, they declined to offer the troops and money the resolution sought.

Still, U.S. officials said they hoped the council's consensus would inspire others to offer more help, starting at a donors conference next week in Spain.

"I think this is a great achievement for the entire Security Council to come together again in this manner," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said after the vote. "It certainly does assist as we now go around and ask people to be generous."

The resolution legitimizes the deployment of foreign troops by turning the U.S.-led occupation force into a multinational one. It also attempts to more deeply involve the U.N. and the rest of the world in Iraq's future, but without significantly ceding U.S. control. And it strengthens the status of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, asking it to submit by Dec. 15 a timetable for a constitution and elections.

Politically, the resolution implicitly validates the outcome of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which was fiercely opposed by many at the U.N., and it calls for international help in rebuilding the country according to a U.S. vision until Iraqis regain power.

France, Russia and Germany had demanded a swifter hand-over of power to an Iraqi interim government under U.N. oversight, instead of relying on a lengthier U.S. timetable for holding elections. The U.S. and Britain argued that neither the Iraqis nor the U.N. were capable of running the country yet.

Several delegations made it clear that newly passed Resolution 1511 would not be the final word on Iraq.

"Our positive vote does not mean we are fully satisfied with its contents," Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said after the 15-0 vote. Since 1990, "the United Nations has adopted nearly 70 resolutions on the situation of Iraq; 1511 will not be the last one."

Most Security Council members -- even the United States -- agree that the resolution is not the end of the process, but rather a first step in a new phase.

"We will be faced with new developments in Iraq, and most probably also with new resolutions," said German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger. "And what we want is that in the process of reconstructing Iraq, the Iraqi people get the message that they have the ownership of this process."

Because the resolution's approval appears to be more a vote for council unity than the document's content, some diplomats worry that it simply patches over deep differences that will erupt later.

"This resolution was based on bilateral pressure and not on the substance of the resolution," said one council diplomat, who asked not to be identified. "We can agree on paper, but the paper means nothing to the people in Iraq. If this is simply an agreement for the sake of agreeing, without real action, it will blow up in our faces."

Thursday's unanimous passage caps six weeks of intense diplomatic haggling. The United States introduced the resolution to obtain international help after deadly bombings in Iraq at the Jordanian Embassy, the U.N. headquarters and a revered Shiite Muslim mosque.

The Security Council's initial reaction was decidedly cool, based on the conclusion that the U.S. and Britain were asking it to share the burden without sharing the responsibility. No country wanted to be seen supporting the occupation, especially militarily.

The U.S. returned with a new version that seemed to win more support. But U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the ambassadors that the best way to end the resistance against the occupation was to end the occupation. He made it clear that because of the mounting violence, he would send U.N. staff back to Iraq only to play an indispensable role, not a marginal one.

Reluctant to pursue a resolution that dissatisfied Annan, council members withdrew their support, and a week ago, Washington was seriously considering abandoning the measure.

But in a final push, the State Department offered a series of concessions that, though largely symbolic, reassured key countries that the resolution could work. The third draft tried to address wishes for the Iraqis to have greater authority in running their country by saying the Iraqi Governing Council "embodied" the nation's sovereignty. The designation was purely symbolic, but it seemed to give the council a staging ground for new discussions, U.S. officials said.

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