War Opponents Back U.S. Iraq Plan

The United States will get unanimous support for its new resolution on Iraq after Syria decided to join Germany, France and Russia in backing the measure aimed at attracting more troops and money to the war battered-country, a U.N. diplomat said Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, the three European opponents of the U.S.-led war against Iraq said they would vote in favor of the resolution after a 45-minute conference call with Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Schroeder said in Brussels, Belgium.

"We agreed that the resolution is really an important step in the right direction," he said. Putin said the three leaders had reached a common position, but gave no details.

That had left only Syria's vote in doubt. A well-informed U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Syria had notified the United States, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, that it would support the resolution.

The announcements were unexpected demonstrations of support for the United States. On Wednesday, U.S. diplomats had been optimistic about a "yes" from Russia and hopeful that Germany might come on board, but were not sure about France. Syria — the only Arab nation on the council and an opponent of U.S. policy on Iraq — had voiced strong opposition.

Passage of the U.S. draft resolution would be the first Security Council victory for the United States in nearly a year. After tortuous negotiations last fall, the Council passed Resolution 1441 on Nov. 8, 2002, authorizing a new round of weapons inspections in Iraq.

Since then, the U.S. has faced stiff resistance at the Council. In March, France, Russia and Germany opposed U.S. efforts to get Security Council approval for the invasion of Iraq, forcing Washington and London to abandon the effort.

The three countries also raised objections to the current U.S. draft resolution because it does not set a specific timetable for the U.S. to hand sovereignty back to an Iraqi government.

Neither France nor Russia, permanent Council members, had threatened to use their veto to block the resolution. But the U.S. had faced the prospect of winning Council approval of the new resolution, but having the vote marred by abstentions. That lack of consensus could have undermined the U.S. position.

The vote, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was delayed so the leaders of Russia, France and Germany could talk Thursday morning.

Secretary of State Colin Powell launched a final diplomatic offensive Wednesday to win broad support for the resolution, 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.

Council diplomats said the United States agreed to delay the vote after Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov spoke again Wednesday night.

After rejecting the French-Russian-German demand for a timetable, the United States honed in on Russia in its search for votes. Moscow has taken a more moderate position than France and Germany.

Council diplomats said Washington asked what Moscow wanted and it submitted three ideas Wednesday morning. Less than 12 hours later they were accepted "99 percent by the sponsors" and included in a fifth draft of the resolution, said Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov.

The amendments would give U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan greater scope to participate in the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution and the political transition, and would state for the first time that the mandate of the multinational force authorized by the resolution would expire when an Iraqi government is elected.

"We are satisfied that these specific amendments were accepted by the sponsor," Lavrov said. But he said that the leaders of Russia, Germany and France must give the final OK.

While the Council remains divided on how fast to transfer power to Iraqis and who should oversee Iraq's political transition from a dictatorship to a democracy, its 15 members appear to be willing to compromise to send a more united message on the importance of returning an independent Iraq to the family of nations.

"Our attitude has become more and more positive," said China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, whose country supported the package of French-Russian-German amendments.

"For China, what we want to see is a stronger role for the U.N. and early return of the sovereignty. At this stage, I think this resolution is far from what (we) expect. But I think as council members, we should always be ready to make compromises," he said.

Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram, whose country was considered a swing vote, announced support for the U.S. draft "despite some reservations on certain provisions." He cited as positive its goals of restoring Iraqi sovereignty, improving security and promoting reconstruction.

The U.S. resolution went through a transformation during the six weeks that it was negotiated.

Facing rising costs and casualties in Iraq, the Bush administration initially focused on getting more countries to provide troops and money to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

But France, Russia and Germany changed the focus to the quick restoration of Iraq's sovereignty, forcing the United States to make clear it has no intention of remaining an occupying power.

But the United States and Britain never wavered in their assessment that sovereignty can't be relinquished until Iraq drafts a new constitution and holds elections.

They agreed, however, to include new provisions urging the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority "to return governing responsibilities and authorities to the people of Iraq as soon as practicable" and calling on the Iraqi Governing Council to provide the Security Council with a timetable for drafting a new constitution and holding elections by Dec. 15.

To get more troops and funds into Iraq, the resolution would authorize a multinational force under U.S. command and call for troop contributions as well as "substantial pledges" from the 191 U.N. member states at a donors conference in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 23-24.