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U.S. Looking For U.N. Help?

After rejecting a major role for the U.N. in postwar Iraq, the Bush administration Wednesday reversed course and began seeking a new Security Council resolution authorizing a multinational force in Iraq.

But the White House still wants that force under U.S. control, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante.

"Certainly the U.S. will continue to play a dominant role, but a dominant role doesn't mean the only role," said Secretary of State Colin Powell. "There are many roles to play."

Under the resolution, American commanders would remain in charge of peacekeeping operations in Iraq, but there, too, "we are asking the international community to join us even more than they have in the past," Powell said at a hastily arranged news conference.

The resolution may be ready for submission to the Security Council next week, he said as he telephoned foreign ministers. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte circulated a draft to other U.N. ambassadors in New York, and Powell said initial reactions were positive.

Elsewhere, the U.S. handed military control over a large belt of Iraq south of Baghdad to a Polish commander. Powell said the rest of the area, around Najaf where a prominent Muslim cleric was killed last week in a bombing, will be turned over "once things settle down a little bit."

The Polish military is leading the international force of about 9,500 that includes troops from 21 countries.

In other developments:

  • In Najaf, the brother of slain Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim said Shiite Muslims would not attack the U.S.-led occupation force, but he suggested his Badr Brigade had rearmed against American orders to "defend ourselves."
  • In Baghdad, the interim Governing Council swore in 17 members of the newly appointed 25-member Cabinet that will begin taking over many of the day-to-day duties of governing the country from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. Eight members were out of the city and could not attend.
  • Near Tikrit, 120 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. military police, working with Iraqi police, raided three farm houses in a search for weapons and opposition suspects. Capt. Omar Lomas, 31, of McAllen, Texas, said soldiers and Iraqi police seized four AK-47 rifles, ammunition and explosives, but made no arrests.
  • A British intelligence officer told the inquiry probing a weapons expert's suicide that he had doubts about a government dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons — especially about the claim that Iraq could launch WMD within 45 minutes.

    The administration's new pitch to the Security Council comes amid rising casualties and cost estimates in Iraq. According to the Pentagon, 285 U.S. soldiers have died since the war began in mid-March, 147 of them since May 1 when President Bush declared major combat operations were over.

    Powell denied the U.S. change of heart has anything to do with the casualties. "It is related to the evolutionary process that we have always had in mind to eventually restoring sovereignty back to the Iraqi people," he said.

    But the occupation of Iraq costs almost $4 billion a month and a recent Congressional report says the army, with 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, would be unable to sustain the occupation beyond next march.

    The administration denies it is stretched too thin, but many in Congress have been urging broader international participation.

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the effort to secure more international assistance "a tacit admission that we don't have the forces there to get the job done." He said Wednesday, "If we don't turn things around in the next few months we are facing a very serious long-term, problem."

    The U.S. has asked two Muslim nations, Turkey and Pakistan, for help, as well as India. But they have all been reluctant to send troops without a U.N. mandate. Washington hopes a new Security Council resolution would change their minds. In addition to authorizing a multinational force, the resolution would involve the U.N. in Iraq's political transition and in finding the tens of billions of dollars that the U.S. says will be required for Iraq's reconstruction.

    But getting this through the Security Council with the same members who six months ago would not give U.N. approval to attack Iraq could require serious political and economic concessions on the part of the United States.

    Can the Bush administration have it both ways: a U.N. mandate and U.S. control? The answer could be up to France. A French official told CBS News, "We'll see whether the U.S. is ready to give power back to the U.N."