The White House said Wednesday it still believes its proposed resolution can be adopted, but U.S. officials at the United Nations said the resolution was being reassessed, stressing there would be no significant change in the American stance, which opposes a quick handover of authority to Iraqis.
The review of the resolution follows last week's announcement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan all but ruling out any U.N. political role in Iraq while the United States and Britain are still the occupying powers. It took U.S. officials by surprise and raised concerns among some Security Council members about the direction of the U.S. draft.
Washington had hoped the resolution would win approval before a donors conference that starts Oct. 23, and the White House indicated this hasn't been ruled out.
"We believe we can pass a good resolution that meets our shared goal of transferring power to the Iraqi people as soon as possible," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
"We continue to work with Security Council members on a new resolution," he said. "We made some improvements to the original draft after talking with members of the Security Council."
But Richard Grenell, a spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, said the exercise was being reevaluated, noting there are already 33 countries helping Iraq.
"We still are in the process of evaluating whether or not the resolution would expand the current coalition. After all the goal has always been greater international assistance for the people of Iraq, not an additional resolution," Grenell said.
The United States got a commitment Tuesday from Turkey for additional troops, and if it could get another country or two to contribute to the force, U.N. diplomats said it wouldn't need a new resolution.
Negroponte said he made clear at a closed council meeting on Monday — the first discussion following Annan's statement — that any revised text would not vary much from the current draft.
"What I told the council members was that if in the coming days we put forward a resolution ... with the idea of bringing it to an early vote, that they shouldn't expect any significant or radical departures from the resolution that they have before them," Negroponte said Tuesday at a news conference.
That one asks the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to provide a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections, in cooperation with the U.S.-led coalition now running the country and the United Nations. It calls for the progressive transfer of authority to Iraq's interim administration.
Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Gennady Gatilov said Wednesday that Negroponte also told council members Monday "that they need several days to assess the situation and take a decision about further steps."
Asked whether his use of the word "if" meant the United States might not call for a vote on the resolution, Negroponte replied, "I just don't want to forecast a specific timeframe at this point."
But he added, "I think the preferred position at the moment would be to try to get a resolution completed and voted and approved as quickly as possible."
Negroponte later reiterated that President Bush wanted a vote before the donor's conference in Madrid, Spain, to help raise money for Iraq's reconstruction.
The council, which was bitterly divided over the U.S.-led war, is now split over the timetable for transferring power to Iraqis and the U.N. role in stabilizing and rebuilding the war-battered country.
Annan, along with France, Germany and Russia, want a quick transfer of power to a provisional Iraqi government — but the United States and Britain say the country must first have a constitution in place and hold elections before they relinquish sovereignty, a process that will take at least a year.
Many council members have called on the 15 nations to unite on the future critical steps in postwar Iraq, and some have privately expressed concern at the message a split vote would send.
Council diplomats said that if a vote was held on the current text, the United States would probably get the minimum nine votes needed for adoption.
France, which threatened to veto a U.S. resolution authorizing the war, has ruled out a veto on this resolution. But France would almost certainly abstain along with Germany, Russia, Syria and possibly China and Pakistan, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. and U.N. agendas also remain at odds, especially following two bombings at U.N. headquarters in a month that killed 23 people, injured more than 150 others, and led Annan to withdraw all but a few dozen of the United Nations' international staff.
The secretary-general made clear last week the United States was already undertaking the major political role in Iraq — and the United Nations would not risk its staff to play the marginal secondary role proposed by Washington.