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U.S. to offer revised Iraq draft at U.N.
( 2003-09-16 10:35) (Agencies)

The United States will likely circulate a revised U.N. resolution on Iraq by the end of the week after studying proposed amendments by France, Russia, Syria, Chile and other Security Council members, diplomats said Monday.

The United States is seeking a new resolution to get more peacekeeping troops and money into Iraq, but the behind-the-scenes debate has focused more on the future U.N. role in Iraq and the restoration of the country's sovereignty.

Foreign ministers of the five veto-wielding U.N. powers discussed Iraq in Geneva on Saturday for the first time since the divisive U.S.-led war. Their talks highlighted the gap between the United States and France, Russia and China on a timetable for restoring Iraq's sovereignty. Britain is the fifth veto-wielding member.

"We're all regrouping," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, who was in Geneva with Secretary of State Colin Powell. "I'm awaiting Secretary Powell's return from his consultations in Baghdad, but I would expect that sometime during the course of this week this process of trying to move the resolution forward would once again resume."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who hosted the Geneva talks, said the question of a timetable has become a key issue.

France has called for a speedy transition to Iraqi rule: a provisional Iraqi government in place within a month, a draft constitution by the end of the year, and elections next spring. Russia and China also want a quick restoration of Iraq's sovereignty, though perhaps not that fast.

But the United States said the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council must be the guiding force in setting a timetable for drafting a constitution and elections.

Powell stuck by this principle after the Geneva meeting, but warned Sunday that "the worst thing that could happen is for us to push this process too quickly, before the capacity for governance is there and the basis for legitimacy is there, and see it fail."

Diplomats said the Geneva talks made no headway in bridging the divide.

"We need now to listen to the Americans about their plans," said Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Gennady Gatilov. "It seems that not much was achieved in Geneva."

France echoed this assessment, council diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

France's ambassador to Washington Jean-David Levitte said Monday that Paris would like to add two points to the draft resolution.

"First, a symbolic transfer of a sovereignty of Iraq in the hands of the Governing Council of Iraq and then as expeditiously as possible the transfer of responsibilities in the hands of the ministers as soon as they are ready to adopt these responsibilities," Levitte said on PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer."

Troops are not enough for security and "it is important to give the Iraqi people the message of empowerment," Levitte said.

With world leaders, including President Bush, arriving in New York next week for the annual ministerial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, Washington is being pressured to produce a revised text to rally support. Last September, when Bush launched his campaign to oust Saddam Hussein at the General Assembly, he had no resolution to propose which some diplomats said was a mistake.

Initially, the British, who hold the Security Council presidency this month, and some Americans talked of getting a new Iraq resolution approved before the General Assembly. But that seems almost impossible given the deep divisions.

Annan is hosting a lunch for the foreign ministers of the five permanent council nations during the ministerial session, which Negroponte said would be "an opportunity for an update of where we stand."

"Whether a resolution will have progressed significantly farther by that time, or whether it will be passed after the General Assembly, those are all issues or questions that are up in the air," Negroponte said. "It's just too early to tell."

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