WASHINGTON — France and Germany said Wednesday that a new U.N. Security Council resolution on the world body's role in Iraq would be needed, prompting U.S. concerns about possible delays in reconstruction efforts and in the planned hand-over of sovereignty this summer.
The U.S. has been urging the United Nations to take a greater role in Iraq, but a new resolution may set up a new confrontation between the United States and two leading war opponents. The new complications arise as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan prepares to issue recommendations on how a new Iraqi government should be selected.
Annan was expected to tell the Security Council today that direct elections were not possible before the scheduled June 30 power transfer but would be desirable by the end of the year. Additional recommendations based on a U.N. team's visit to Iraq this month are expected next week.
Bush administration officials said they feared that a debate over a new resolution could drag on long enough to force a postponement of the hand-over to a transitional Iraqi government. They also worry that it could provide the U.N. with enough leverage to force an overhaul of major infrastructure projects in the country, such as those for power plants and oil field redevelopment.
Any debate may reopen diplomatic wounds from the prewar period and suggests a repetition of a pattern in which the U.S. has sought U.N. support but then been unhappy with the results. In 2002, the Bush administration asked for the United Nations' backing for the U.S. effort to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but turned critical when it failed to get the Security Council's blessing.
If the Security Council adopts a new resolution, the U.N. "might want to stop projects that we're about to get underway. They might want to undo ones that are already going," said one administration official, who asked to remain unidentified.
Such a move "could have really major effects," the official said.
The U.S. official added that the administration was especially concerned about the French, although relations between the two countries have warmed since the Chirac government led opposition to the war.
After leading the invasion of Iraq last March without having gained U.N. support, U.S. officials have been looking to the international body for months to help rescue beleaguered recovery efforts. They hope that U.N. involvement in the transitional government will earn the mission greater acceptance by Iraqis and neighbors and lead other countries to contribute more money, troops and political support.
But some countries have been skeptical about the way the U.S.-led coalition has organized the occupation and rewarded contracts to rebuild the country. The United States has so far barred French, Russian and German companies from bidding for $18.6 billion in U.S.-funded prime reconstruction projects. All three nations opposed the war.
A second U.S. official said Wednesday that "we don't need any more resolutions."
But he added that, "knowing the lay of the land" at the U.N., "they're probably going to want one."
The official said he believed that any U.N. debate could be concluded in time for the June 30 hand-over. But he also predicted that there would be "many, many more meetings and trips" before the U.N. leadership could propose a specific role, and considerable debate before a vote on the resolution.
"There's a very slow process here," the official said. "They take tiny steps, and they're very, very cautious."
In interviews Wednesday at the United Nations, the French and German ambassadors signaled their interest in a new resolution.
French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said that it was still "too early" to be talking about a new resolution, but that one would soon become necessary.
"A new resolution will be needed to organize the situation after the 30th of June," he said. "Iraq will be a sovereign government, U.S. forces will have a new status, and the U.N. will be back in a new role."
Saying he wanted to be "cautious," De la Sabliere added: "We haven't started a discussion on it. But certainly we will need a new resolution before the 30th of June."
Gunter Pleuger, the German ambassador, largely agreed.
"If there appears to be a possibility that we will get an interim Iraqi government, then it makes sense to prepare a new resolution so we are ready for the transition on the 1st of July," Pleuger said.
He said it was his feeling that a Security Council resolution approved in October that legitimized the deployment of foreign troops in Iraq by turning the U.S.-led occupation force into a multinational one "would not be sufficient" after the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council dissolve. "We need a resolution to draw in other countries," he said.