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U.S. Begins Shopping Its Iraq Resolution at U.N.

Envoys warily greet requests for troops and money. Powell indicates details may be revised.

September 04, 2003|Robin Wright and Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday launched a diplomatic offensive to win passage of a new U.N. resolution that could make the world body a junior partner in Iraq, and called on the Iraqi Governing Council to set a timetable for electing a new government.

The U.S. goal is to create a mechanism to share the financial and military burdens in Iraq while establishing a framework for the transition to a post-Saddam Hussein government in Baghdad.

U.N. envoys warily welcomed U.S. and British requests for more troops and money in Iraq in exchange for a greater United Nations role in Iraq.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell conferred by telephone Wednesday with officials of France, Russia, Britain and Germany, important members of the Security Council, and he said the proposal had been well received. "The initial reaction so far is positive," he said.

But Powell acknowledged that "some serious discussions and negotiating" about details would take place in the next few days, an indication that the current draft may undergo changes.

At a hastily called news conference, Powell said the proposed resolution calls for the U.S. to continue leading a multinational force but would allow for a strong U.N. role.

"Certainly the United States will continue to play a dominant role. But a dominant role does not mean the only role," he said.

The pivotal language in the draft concerns security. It authorizes a multinational force, the precondition for several nations to provide troops. The U.N.-authorized force would be placed under a unified command along with current forces in Iraq and led by the United States.

The draft stipulates that the force would help provide the stability needed for Iraq's political transformation and would contribute to the security of the U.N. mission in Iraq, the institutions of the Iraqi interim authority and "key humanitarian and economic infrastructure." That would make it seem less an extension of the U.S.-led force that fought the war.

On another security-related issue, the resolution also calls on Iraq's six neighbors to block the transit of suspected terrorists and arms to Iraq. Washington backed down on earlier language that specified Iran and Syria, U.N. envoys said.

Other provisions call for the United Nations to help establish Iraq's electoral process and for international and regional organizations to speed up financial assistance for the country's reconstruction.

The resolution would formally endorse the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, which was selected by the United States and Britain with U.N. advice, and support its efforts to mobilize the Iraqi people. This is intended to produce badly needed international support for the council, which has not yet been recognized by some U.N. members, including any of Iraq's immediate neighbors, or the Arab League, the most important regional bloc.

In turn, the resolution calls on the council to produce a timetable and program for drafting a new constitution and holding democratic elections. U.S. officials said that the call for a timetable reflected the Bush administration's response to key Security Council members after Washington floated the idea of a new resolution last month.

"We listened to the French, who said, 'Give us a political horizon and timetable,' and that's what we're doing," said a senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We're also saying this is not a struggle between foreigners over who is king of Iraq, but how do we give as much support to the Iraqis as they need. That was a direct response to the international community and the Iraqis."

France, which led the opposition to the Iraq war and to participation in postwar reconstruction, had earlier said a constituent assembly should be elected by the end of the year. Paris had also said that a U.N.-mandated force should not simply be an enlargement or adjustment of the U.S.-led coalition.

"The question is how to win the peace," said French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere. "So we will see the resolution with this in mind -- how to help the situation stabilize and how to have the Iraqis recover their sovereignty as soon as possible."

Powell said Wednesday that the Iraqi council would work on a timetable with U.N. officials and with the U.S. civilian administrator, L. Paul Bremer III.

Powell described the proposed resolution as "essentially putting the Security Council in the game." Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on his way to the Mideast, said countries that donate troops and money would have a voice in both civil and military operations. "To the extent countries step up with troops and support and money, they have a seat at the table," Rumsfeld said.

United Nations diplomats were divided, however, on whether the draft represents an expanded U.N. role in the political transition or an attempt by the U.S. to "launder" responsibility for it through the Iraqi body.

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