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US challenged in quest for UN resolution on Iraq
( 2003-10-06 15:09) (Agencies)

The United States faces an uphill fight this week in trying to get enough U.N. votes for its blueprint on Iraq after Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged the plan, aimed at getting more troops and money.

Despite optimistic comments from U.S. officials, U.N. Security Council members say Annan's rejection of the American-British approach stopped progress in its tracks on a draft resolution, to be discussed again on Monday.

Annan told Security Council ambassadors on Thursday he did not want to risk more lives, following the deadly Aug. 19 bombing of U.S. offices in Baghdad, for a marginal political role in Iraq as in the U.S.-drafted resolution.

At issue are U.S. plans to hand over sovereignty to Iraq after a constitution and free elections, which the Bush administration estimates could take a year and U.N. officials say should take two years if done correctly. The United Nations was to help with the election process under the U.S.-led occupation.

"The transition to self-government is a complicated process, because it takes time to build trust and hope after decades of oppression and fear," President Bush said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.

In contrast Annan prefers a plan, almost identical to proposals from France and Germany, that would transfer some sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in several months and then take some two years to write a constitution and organize elections as in Afghanistan.


"The end of the formal occupation would send rather a powerful signal to Iraqis," a senior U.N. official said.

The official said Annan was not trying to haggle, bargain or be obstructionist. "It is not axiomatic that the United Nations has to play a political role in every crisis there is," he told reporters.

France, Germany and Russia, as expected, signaled approval of Annan's remarks shortly after he spoke. But diplomats said the impact of his comments on undecided nations was considerable and made it unlikely the U.S. measure would be adopted without substantial changes.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, this month's council president, hopes for adoption before a donor's conference on Iraq in Madrid on Oct. 23-24.

None of the permanent council members with veto power have threatened to use it to kill the resolution. But the measure, co-sponsored by Spain and Britain, needs nine out of 15 votes to be adopted.

Spain's U.N. ambassador, Inocencio Arias, said on Friday there could be six abstentions, showing a bitter division. "If it passes, what's the use of having nine votes and six abstentions?" he said. "That would be unacceptable."

There is no dispute among council members over the U.S. proposal in the resolution to transfer the military operation to a U.N.-approved multinational force under U.S. command. This provision was meant to give political cover to nations hesitating to contribute troops and other assistance to an occupied country.

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