YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


U.N. Endorses Iraq's Interim Government

To help secure approval for their resolution, the U.S. and Britain grant the acting leaders the right to ask foreign troops to leave.

June 09, 2004|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday endorsing the U.S. hand-over of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government June 30 and authorizing multinational forces to stay in the country for at least a year with the government's consent.

The resolution, which seeks to formally end the U.S. occupation of Iraq, gave the new Iraqi government control of its soldiers, police and oil resources and a say -- but not a veto -- on the multinational forces' operations.

During three weeks of negotiations, France, Germany, China and others had pressed for more Iraqi control over the operations of foreign troops, including the right to reject sensitive military operations, such as the recent clashes in Fallouja and Najaf. But Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari weakened that demand when he said last week that a veto wasn't necessary, and that the council need not be "more Iraqi than the Iraqis."

To secure the resolution, the United States and Britain made a major concession, granting the interim government the right to ask multinational forces to leave. That change came only after Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi assured U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in a letter that his country wanted foreign troops to remain at least until an elected government takes office, as is planned next year. The resolution's initial draft had given no deadline for the forces' mandate.

The U.S.-British resolution seeks international legitimacy for the caretaker government and help in American-led reconstruction efforts. In contrast to the bitter divisions that marked the prewar Iraq debate, the Security Council's 15 members voted unanimously to demonstrate their support for rebuilding a fractured, unstable country.

U.S. officials portrayed the vote as a diplomatic victory for the Bush administration at a time when doubts about the American ability to maintain control of Iraq are rising. In Sea Island, Ga., where President Bush is host of the annual Group of 8 economic summit, he hailed the U.N. vote as "a great victory for the Iraqi people."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who arrived at the resort island Tuesday afternoon, also welcomed the vote. "Whatever the divisions of the past, whatever the differences of the past, let us unite now in a different vision for a modern Iraq capable of being that force for good for Iraqis and also for the wider region and the world," Blair said.

The U.S. and Britain had been reluctant to spell out in the resolution what authority Iraq should have in the operations of the multinational force, preferring to include it in letters between Allawi and Powell, which would not have the same legal weight. But a last-minute proposal by Algeria to include portions of the letters in the resolution satisfied most council members and paved the way for the unanimous vote.

France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said the council's consensus sent the strongest signal to Iraq that it had the world's backing. He said it was up to Iraq to "take ownership" of the country, and to stand up for itself.

"France cannot imagine that the multinational force would go against the opinion of Iraq's sovereign government," he said.

After June 30, about 160,000 foreign troops -- most of them Americans -- will remain in Iraq.

The U.S. and Britain began their diplomacy long before introducing the first draft, in contrast to prewar Iraq resolutions, in which negotiations occurred after drafts were proposed.

The co-sponsors held three rounds of talks with other council members to hear their concerns, then revised the text four times before putting it to a vote. Powell began working for the initiative in April, a State Department official said, and made 23 diplomatic phone calls since it was tabled three weeks ago.

"I wouldn't say this was easier, but I think that generally speaking there was more of a consensus atmosphere throughout the process of negotiation," said U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte, who will become ambassador to Iraq after June 30. "A great effort was made to take into account comments from virtually all the delegations as well as the delegation of Iraq."

Other countries acknowledged the flexibility of the U.S. and Britain. "When you see where we started and where we ended, this is a significant effort," said Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali. "I hope for Iraq it will be a catalyst for real change."

The caretaker government will have limited powers. Because the new Iraqi leaders were appointed by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, they have agreed to focus on preparing for elections to take place by January. They will pledge not to make laws or long-term contracts that would bind the elected government. Their first priority is to stabilize the country, Allawi said this week.

Los Angeles Times Articles