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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Revised U.N. Draft Is Vague on Key Issue, Critics Say

June 02, 2004|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — In an attempt to satisfy criticisms of key Security Council members, the U.S. and Britain presented an amended draft resolution Tuesday that would give Iraq's new interim government "full sovereignty," control of its own army and police and would direct multinational forces to leave by January 2006.

But the resolution remains deliberately vague on the main concern of critical council members: whether the U.S. command or the Iraqi government has ultimate control of foreign forces.

"We wish to see the interim government's views on major military operations prevail when the multinational force intends to carry out major operations," said Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali, the lone Arab representative on the council. "This does not appear clearly in the draft resolution, so we have to work on that."

The new draft does say that once a government is elected next year, it can ask foreign forces to leave early. But in the interim, the way to handle disagreements over sensitive military operations will be spelled out in a side letter from the U.S. command to the Security Council.

"Those points are in the letters, but they belong in the resolution," said French Deputy Ambassador Michel Duclos.

The draft also gives Iraqis full control of their natural resources, revenues and borders and says Iraq will gradually assume responsibility for its security.

The United States and Britain are pushing to pass the resolution before the middle of the month, preferably by Sunday, when the American, British and French heads of state will meet in Normandy, France, for a D-day commemoration.

But although many council members, including veto-holding members France, China and Russia, lauded the changes in the new draft, they said they were not going to rush its adoption. They want to be sure the new interim government is acceptable to Iraq's people before voting, because so many of the same officials from the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council are also in the next government.

Several Security Council members also said they wanted to consult with U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who tried to shepherd the chaotic selection of Iraq's new leaders, and with the government-in-waiting about how it envisions Iraq after the hand-over of power, scheduled for June 30. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari will arrive in New York this evening and is to meet the council Thursday.

"Our soundings in capitals and elsewhere suggest that we've come very close to meeting what most people want," said British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry. "I don't envisage running to the 15th."

Drafters changed the language on the role of the U.N. in Iraq to give Secretary-General Kofi Annan more flexibility on when to return U.N. staffers to the country. The U.N. is expected to help convene a national conference to select a Consultative Council, to help draft a constitution and to aid preparations for elections scheduled for January.

But all U.N. staffers were withdrawn from Iraq last November after repeated attacks. The draft now states that "as circumstances permit," the U.N. will play a "leading role" in those reconstruction tasks.

"I think the violence in Iraq is a concern for everyone, and I have no reason to believe that it is going to stop because a government has been designated," Annan said Tuesday.

Times staff writer Mary Curtius in Washington contributed to this report.

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