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U.S. Floats New Iraq-U.N. Plan

The United States circulated a new Iraq resolution on Wednesday calling for a strengthened U.N. role in rebuilding the country, but providing no timetable for a handover of authority to Iraqis.

The new draft, obtained by The Associated Press, underscores that the U.S.-led occupation is "temporary" and that "the day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly."

The United States wasted no time after it took over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday in calling a meeting to distribute the revised text to the other four veto-wielding council nations — Russia, China, France and Britain.

"As far as time is concerned, we would like to move expeditiously on it," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said. "We'd also like to see the resolution in place, if possible, well in advance of the upcoming donors conference in Madrid on Oct. 24" for Iraq.

The U.S. presidency was a stroke of good timing as Washington campaigns for approval of the new resolution, aimed at getting more countries to contribute troops and money to Iraq.

The new draft — like the previous draft — would transform the U.S.-led coalition force into a multinational force. The United States, as leader of the force, would report to the Security Council at least every six months. ` The new draft spells out that the force will ensure "necessary conditions" for adopting a constitution and holding elections as well as protect U.N. offices, the U.S.-apointed Iraqi interim government and other key institutions.

It reiterates the call to the 191 U.N. member states to contribute military forces and to increase financial assistance for reconstruction. It makes a similar appeal to international financial institutions.

The U.S. decision to give the United Nations a larger role in Iraq's reconstruction, and to make clear that the United States had no intention of a long-term occupation, was designed to attract the support of France, Germany, Russia and other skeptical countries in the Security Council.

There was no immediate reaction, though one council diplomat said the sense was that Russia and China thought the resolution was in the right direction.

France and Germany have called for a quick transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis. Paris says it should be possible by the end of the year. Many countries have also asked for an expanded U.N. role in overseeing Iraq's political transformation to a democracy, including elections.

Some potential troop contributors have refused to commit soldiers unless a multinational force is deployed under a U.N. umbrella.

Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the new resolution Wednesday by telephone with British foreign secretary Jack Straw and foreign ministers Ana Palacio of Spain, Joschka Fischer of Germany, Igor Ivanov of Russia and Dominique de Villepin of France.

The resolution reiterated the U.S. call for the Iraqi Governing Council to cooperate with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and the United Nations in drawing up a timetable and program for drafting a new constitution and holding democratic elections.

It "affirms that the administration of Iraq will be progressively undertaken by the evolving structures of the Iraqi interim administration, and to that end, calls upon the authority to continue its practice of transferring as quickly as practicable effective and substantial executive responsibility."

The draft calls for the United Nations to "strengthen its vital role in Iraq" in providing humanitarian relief, promoting economic reconstruction and rebuilding institutions for representative government. It encourages Secretary-General Kofi Annan to provide assistance to help draft the constitution, conduct elections, reform the judiciary and civil service, and train an Iraqi police force.

Negroponte said the fact that the United States has the council presidency, which rotates monthly among the 15 members, at a time it is pressing for the Iraq resolution was a coincidence: "That's just the way the ball happened to bounce in this particular case."

Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser agreed.

"This is very much one of these casualties of destiny," he said. "I think it's good. It will focus the council, and I have no doubt Negroponte will act as president of the council with absolute impartiality in his role as president of the council ... but forcefully represent the view of his government."

The United States first circulated a working draft in late August, and Washington received major amendments from France, Germany, Russia and Syria — all opponents of the U.S.-led war.

President Bush and Powell lobbied for support last week at the United Nations. Powell claimed the administration had begun to close ranks with critics on a resolution.

The drastic cutback in U.N. staff in Iraq following two bombings of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad raises concerns about how much the United Nations will be able to do — and how quickly.

Pakistan, which is viewed as a possible troop contributor, would like the multinational force to have "an identity which does not make it seem to be an extension of the occupation force, of the coalition force," Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram said.