U.S. Iraq Plan Picks Up Support

The United States picked up important support from China and Pakistan for its new Iraq resolution late Wednesday and Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted a successful vote.

But Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov asked for voting to be postponed until Thursday so the leaders of France, Russia and Germany could discuss the final draft and decide whether or not to support the resolution.

The three countries which opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq had called on the United States to reverse itself and agree to a speedy handover of power to Iraqis. The United States late Tuesday rejected their key demand to add a timetable for the transfer of sovereignty to the resolution.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, the current Security Council president, had delayed consultations on the U.S. draft for four hours, pushing it back to Wednesday evening. He had asked all 15 council nations to be prepared to vote after that closed-door meeting.

As he headed into consultations, Negroponte said the request for a delay would be discussed by the council.

"What I want to stress is that there is real movement towards greater consensus in the council on the basis of our draft text," the U.S. ambassador said.

Several wavering council nations backed his view.

"I think our attitude has become more and more positive," said China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, who had supported the French-Russian-German amendments. "If a vote is taken I hope that there will be more members supporting this draft."

Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram, whose country was considered a swing vote, said as he headed into consultations: "We will vote for the resolution."

Powell embarked on a final round of high-stakes diplomacy Wednesday morning, talking by telephone to the presidents of Pakistan and Angola, the foreign ministers of China, Russia and Britain and twice to Dominique de Villepin of France.

"A great deal of progress has been made over the last 24 hours, and especially today," Powell told reporters in Washington. "I think that we will have a successful vote on the resolution."

"We have been listening to our friends" and the administration is open to compromise while preserving "our firm positions," he said.

Council diplomats said the United States agreed to add new language to the resolution about a stronger U.N. role in Iraq's political transition to democracy and to make clear that the U.S. occupation will end when a new government is formed.

But Washington didn't change its mind on the French-Russian-German proposal that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council be given a role in establishing a timetable for transferring power, along with the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said because the three countries had submitted joint amendments and "not all of them have been taken into account," the three leaders needed to discuss the final text which was on the table.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was flying to Kuala Lumpur to attend the Organization of Islamic Conference summit, had scheduled a teleconference at 6 a.m. EDT with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, he said.

Because of this, he said, "we cannot vote tonight — I hope this is understood."

The U.S.-backed resolution was likely to get at least the minimum nine "yes" votes for adoption, according to many council diplomats, with no veto expected. But the absence of a timetable diminished the possibility that would be adopted with broad support from the 15 council members.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, a co-sponsor of the resolution, put the "yes" votes at eight to 14, according to one diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. and British insistence that sovereignty can't be relinquished until Iraq drafts a new constitution and holds elections — and their refusal to set a timetable — clearly rankled some diplomats.

Villepin, whose country has led calls for the United States to hand over power by the end of the year, said Wednesday that sovereignty must be returned to the Iraqi people "as soon as possible."

"Let us not underestimate the ability of the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their own destiny," he said at a lecture in London filmed for the British Broadcasting Corp.

When the United States first talked about a resolution six weeks ago, the primary aim was to get more countries to provide troops and money to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

Those aims still hold, and the resolution would authorize a multinational force under U.S. command and call for "substantial pledges" from the 191 U.N. member states at a donors conference in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 23-24.

But the focus of debate has shifted to the transfer of power from the British and American occupation — which has become a target of Iraqi resistance — to the Iraqis themselves.

In an effort to reach a compromise with the United States on the pace of the transition from occupation, the French, Germans and Russians dropped a demand that power be handed over to an Iraqi provisional government within the next few months. They backed off a push to give U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan the main political role in the transition.

Instead, the three opponents of the U.S.-led war on Iraq proposed that Annan and the Security Council be given a role in establishing a timetable for transferring power, along with the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council.

But the United States rejected the proposal, sticking with its original text that calls on the coalition to transfer power "as soon as practicable." It also decided to stick with one deadline — Dec. 15 for the Governing Council to submit a timetable for drafting a constitution and