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3 Nations Offer Iraq Proposals

The changes by France, Germany and Russia to a draft resolution at the U.N. may pave the way for a compromise deal, diplomats say.

September 11, 2003|Maggie Farley and John Hendren | Times Staff Writers

UNITED NATIONS — France, Germany and Russia have put forth changes to the U.S. draft resolution seeking international help in Iraq that, though not entirely palatable to Washington, make some sort of compromise look possible, British and American diplomats said Wednesday.

France and Germany, in a joint proposal, have offered to recognize an Iraqi transition government and endorse a U.S.-led multinational force if the U.S. hands over most of its control over the political transition to the U.N. and the interim Iraqi leaders. Russia presented a separate proposal closer to U.S. and British ideas.

The U.S. has been unwilling to cede political authority, but American officials say everyone on the U.N. Security Council is aiming for the same result: for Iraqis to reclaim sovereignty as soon as possible. That may lead the council to find common ground in the coming weeks. But other issues loom: how much the U.S. will be willing to give up to win broader international involvement, and how nations that opposed the war can support Iraq without supporting the occupation.

France has led the opposition on the council to sharing the burden of rebuilding Iraq without sharing the power, and so any slight softening in its stance encourages U.S. negotiators.

Previously, the French reaction was negative, a senior U.S. official said. "This suggests that they're moving to the position of 'no, but,' which gives us something to work with."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, worried that the situation in Iraq is dangerously deteriorating, has summoned the foreign ministers from the Security Council's veto-wielding nations -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. -- to Geneva on Saturday. They are expected to hash out ways to move from a U.S.-led occupation to greater international involvement in Iraq to restore security and, ultimately, the country's sovereignty.

The French-German proposals cut the occupation authority out of Iraq's day-to-day governance, including oversight of oil and aid, and put control instead in the hands of the Iraqi Governing Council under U.N. monitoring. They ask the Iraqi interim government, with U.N. guidance, to come up with a timetable for drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

The amendments also demand that the occupation powers to open their books and establish an international board to monitor the use of all oil revenue and aid before nations make any new contributions or loans. The U.N. is sponsoring an international donors conference in Madrid in October, and the coalition desperately needs funds.

The U.S. has strongly resisted loosening its grip on political oversight, but it has been exploring ways to keep hold of the reins while allowing the U.N. and the Iraqi Governing Council to steer the process. The coalition already has granted more responsibilities to the interim officials, while reserving veto power over their decisions, U.S. officials say.

"The point is not to argue either about which foreigner is going to take control in Iraq," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday. "The point is to go out and look and see what we can all do to support the Iraqis as they go forward in that process."

The White House is adamant, however, about keeping multinational troops under its command. But a recent congressional report saying that U.S. forces were overextended in Iraq added to pressure to bring in replacement troops from other countries.

President Bush said Wednesday that United Nations members and other countries had much to gain, or lose, in the reconstruction effort in Iraq and had strong incentive to contribute money and troops.

In an appearance with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheik Sabah al Ahmed al Jabbar al Sabah, Bush said that he and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell would soon be seeking contributions.

Bush said the international community needed to move beyond past disputes. "A peaceful Iraq is in the world's interest. And I'm confident we can work together to achieve that."

In asking for more international troops while insisting that an overall increase in the number of troops is not necessary, the administration is doing a delicate dance. Administration officials have argued for the political advantage offered by putting an international face on coalition security forces, which under current plans would simply replace American forces.

"Our goal is not to create a dependency in Iraq by flooding it with Americans, our goal is to get a broad, still broader international face on it, and then a considerably greater Iraqi face on it as they contribute more and more to their own political future and their own economic future," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington.

A new United Nations resolution authorizing U.N. troops to join coalition forces in Iraq probably would yield few additional soldiers but plenty of political cover, he added.

"The expectation is that you would not get a large additional number of forces as a result of an additional U.N. resolution," Rumsfeld said. "A new resolution would, however, provide some countries with a feeling that it was more of an international activity that they were engaged in, which would be a good thing, and it also would ease the process for some people to give additional money."

Meanwhile, the burden is on the U.S., as Congress considers a request for $87 billion in emergency funding in addition to more than $100 billion already approved for the administration's war on terrorism, mostly to fund the military campaign in Iraq. Bush insisted that the U.S. contribution was unavoidable.

"It's important to spend that money," Bush said. "It's in our national interest that we spend it. A free and peaceful Iraq will save this country money in the long term. It's important to get it done now."

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Times staff writer Robin Wright contributed to this report from Washington.

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