Latest Iraq Proposal Still Lacking

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan pauses before answering reporters' questions regarding the Iraq crisis at the United Nations Thursday, March 13, 2003.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and countries seeking a quick handover of power to an Iraqi provisional government expressed disappointment Tuesday that a new U.S. resolution didn't give a timetable for the Americans to relinquish sovereignty.

Germany, which has worked closely with France, and Russia said they planned to propose amendments to the latest draft. But the United States made clear that it wants a very quick vote, and a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was highly doubtful Washington would agree to any major changes.

"We have asked members of the Security Council to be ready to vote from 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday on," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.

Even if there are no further changes, the resolution is likely to get the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption. France has ruled out using its veto — but some council members are concerned at the mixed message the council would send if the resolution was only approved by a slim margin.

Annan said he hopes the United States will work with other council members "to get as broad support as possible because I have always maintained that the council is at its best and has the greatest impact when it is united."

Two weeks ago, Annan took the United States by surprise when he told council members that the United Nations would not send its staff back to Iraq to play the secondary political role in Iraq's transition to democracy outlined in the previous U.S. draft. Annan drastically reduced the U.N. staff after two bombings at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

Along with France, Germany, Russia and China, the U.N. chief has called for the establishment of an Iraqi provisional government within months and a quick transfer of sovereignty, similar to what happened after the Taliban was toppled in Afghanistan. The United States and Britain have said Iraq must first have a constitution and hold elections before they relinquish sovereignty.

"Obviously the current resolution does not represent a major shift in the thinking of the (U.S.-led) coalition," Annan told reporters on his arrival at U.N. headquarters. "I am on the record as stating that as long as there's an occupation, the resistance will grow."

Nonetheless, he said he was grateful that the Americans took into account "some of my preoccupations" conditioning U.N. participation. "I will implement any resolution that the council might adopt, bearing in mind the constraints we are all aware of," he said, citing security concerns.

The Germans, Russians and Chinese indicated that the third revision of the resolution, which was circulated Monday, was better than the two previous drafts but still fell short.

Russia's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Yuri Fedotov said Moscow plans to suggest "a series of additional but very important amendments," the Interfax news agency reported.

He said Russia's position on the resolution will depend on "the readiness of the authors of the draft resolution to take into account these ideas of ours," Interfax reported.

"I think the Americans have made an effort to improve the resolution," Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said. "But we would like to see here and there some more improvements, and I think that we will make some very good and constructive proposals."

President Bush's main aim in seeking a new resolution is to get more countries to contribute troops and money to stabilize and rebuild Iraq. The resolution would authorize a multinational force — sought by some potential troop contributing nations — led by the United States.

Washington wants a vote ahead of a major donors conference for Iraq in Madrid, Spain on Oct. 23-24.

The revised resolution would give the United Nations a larger role in Iraq's political transition to democracy, but the world body would not be able to act independently of the U.S.-led coalition now running the country as Annan has sought.

The first version of the U.S. proposal was circulated in mid-September. It sought to transform the U.S.-led coalition force into a U.N.-authorized multinational one under a unified command, but maintained U.S. political and military control of Iraq.

The second proposal emerged around the beginning of October, calling for a strengthened U.N. role in providing humanitarian relief, promoting economic reconstruction and rebuilding institutions for representative government.

It also encouraged Annan to provide assistance to help draft the constitution, conduct elections, reform the judiciary and civil service, and train an Iraqi police force. But it still provided no timetable for a handover of authority to Iraqis.

The wrangling over the current resolution continues a pattern seen over the past year, when U.S. diplomats struggled to get many of their allies to go along — first with a resolution demanding Iraq submit to new weapons inspections, then on a measure authorizing war. The U.S. ultimately succeeded in getting U.N. approval for new inspections, but it had to abandon efforts to get Security Council backing for the invasion.

A member of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council said Tuesday that the Dec. 15 deadline included in the new draft for submitting a timetable for a new constitution and elections could be met — if violence in the country is brought under control.

Speaking to reporters on the sideline of an Islamic summit in Malaysia, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the council has "always expressed our readiness, willingness that…we will be able to meet those deadlines."

But unless security is improved, "it will be difficult to carry out any further political stance."