Talks underway on Iraq resolution; changes expected
( 2003-09-06 09:21) (Agencies)
With talks beginning on a U.S.-drafted resolution on Iraq, diplomats said France, Germany and Russia are closer to Washington's position than it appears but will not approve the document without changes.
The 15 Security Council members on Friday held their first informal discussions on the draft resolution, aimed at getting more troops and money to Iraq, after meeting in smaller groups on Thursday.
Nearly every nation wanted a stronger U.N. role in the political transition in Iraq, diplomats said after the meeting organized by Britain, which along with Spain and Bulgaria, defended the American draft.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said Washington was open to changes that France is expected to submit next week. "We certainly welcome any suggestions from others, with respect to amendments," Negroponte told reporters.
The draft resolution calls for the Security Council to authorize a multinational force under U.S. command to help stabilize Iraq and draft troops from India, Pakistan and Turkey, who have refused to take part in a peacekeeping mission without a U.N. mandate.
The proposal also gives the United Nations a role in the writing of a constitution leading to elections. But the United States would retain ultimate control.
The draft says the Iraqi Governing Council, which should be recognized as an interim administration, would create a timetable for elections leading to sovereignty.
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Thursday they could not accept the U.S. draft as written but did not completely reject it.
They stressed the need for a timetable leading to Iraqi sovereignty, a greater role for the United Nations and greater transparency in how money for reconstruction would be spent.
Both nations opposed the war in Iraq and their comments indicated that prewar divisions had not mended. The United States, which had scorned the United Nations since the Security Council refused to endorse the war, reversed strategy by submitting the resolution in the first place.
STARTING POINT FOR TALKS
Nevertheless diplomats said the French and German positions represented a starting point for negotiations and were framed in particularly tough language in response to a stream of U.S. statements that Washington would not cede any military control and would remain the dominant occupying power.
France, they said, would submit an amendment that included a "dramatic" gesture of Iraqi sovereignty and a sign the world wanted the occupation to end.
Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov told reporters after the Friday meeting that the key was to have Iraqi "sovereignty restored" and to ensure this takes place in an agreed timetable. He said a multinational force would be needed "to support this political process."
German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger was cautious in predicting any vote on the document, which the United States wants adopted before President Bush addresses the General Assembly on Oct. 23. "It is too early to make an assessment of how long it will take and how successful we will be," he said.
One element in the debate has not been considered seriously. Reeling from an attack on its Baghdad headquarters, the U.N. secretariat is expected to have difficulties getting staff to come to Iraq after 22 people were killed in the Aug. 19 blast.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has already indicated his staff could refuse to carry out a mission that is not clear and achievable. One major complaint about resolutions to date was the vague role envisioned for the world body, which many officials believe prompted terrorists to view it as a junior partner of the U.S. occupation.
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