Revised Iraq Plan At The Ready

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AP
A White House decision was imminent Wednesday on a revised resolution to give the United Nations a larger role in Iraq's reconstruction, a U.S. official said.

The nod to the United Nations and other minor changes in the initial draft were designed to attract the support of France and other skeptical countries in the Security Council.

There is no major hang-up within the U.S. government on the new provisions and approval is likely before the end of the week, an administration official told The Associated Press.

He predicted passage by the 15-nation Council, but said he was less sanguine about the United States getting other countries to provide more peacekeeping troops and to pledge hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to rebuild Iraq at a donors conference Oct. 24 in Madrid.

The Bush administration hopes that by putting the U.S.-led peacekeeping operation under U.N. auspices, while retaining an American commander, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and other Muslim and non-Muslim nations would be encouraged to bolster the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and the 23,000 deployed by Britain, Poland and other U.S. supporters.

Also, there are 60,000 Iraqis under arms as police, guards at facilities, border and customs agents and people beginning to form a new army.

French President Jacques Chirac last week said his government would not veto an Iraq resolution and Monday Russia said it wanted a "realistic but short" timeline for handing over power to Iraqi civilians and was prepared to accept a stage-by-stage transition provided the United Nations was given a major political role.

Still, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin reiterated Monday that "France insists on the implementation of a rapid transfer of power…within several months."

Germany, which had joined France and Russia in opposing the U.S.-led war against Iraq, has moved closer to Washington and is not insisting on a timetable for ending the U.S. occupation.

President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell lobbied for support last week at the United Nations. Powell claimed the administration had begun to close ranks with critics on a resolution. "We are seeing some convergence of views," he said.

Powell publicly urged the Iraqis to write a Constitution within six months and to hold elections, steps that would hasten a transition of power from the U.S.-led coalition in Baghdad.

Assigning specific responsibilities to the U.N. secretary-general were under consideration, Powell said. These could include supervising elections and training civil servants.

The spokesman for the current president of the Iraqi Governing Council said Tuesday that Iraqis are unlikely to be able to adopt a new constitution within six months.

"We all want to see a constitution as soon as possible," said Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for the current council president, Ahmad Chalabi.

He said it would take time for Iraqis to "coalesce" on issues regarding the framework of a new democratic Iraq. Then, he said, there had to be "adequate time" for the Iraqi people to discuss and understand any proposed constitution before holding a referendum on it.

"I don't think six months will be sufficient, but we must wait and see," he said. "This is up to the constitutional committee and the events. A lot of times deadlines do not necessarily stay as is, and reality drive what's happening."