Russia questions US plans for Iraq's future
( 2003-11-20 08:45) (Reuters)
As the United States and Britain sought U.N. backing for their agenda to hand over power to Iraqis, Russia on Wednesday criticized U.S. plans for not engaging the United Nations further in the transition process.
The 25-member Iraqi Governing Council is due to present a timetable to the U.N. Security Council by Dec. 15 for a transfer of power from the U.S.-led coalition by June 31, 2004, although it may be submitted well before that date.
The United States and Britain then would like the Security Council to welcome or endorse the schedule in a resolution before the end of the year but would not insist on it.
"The U.K. assumption is that there will be a resolution welcoming these developments and that we will do this as soon as we are in receipt of a formal approach from the Iraqis," Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, said.
But Moscow's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, told CNN the proposals left vague the role of the United Nations, which Russia, France and Germany have said must play a critical role in any settlement.
Ivanov suggested an international conference similar to one in Bonn, Germany, in late 2001 that led to the formation of an interim government in Afghanistan. The United Nations supervised the meeting of various Afghan factions.
However, diplomats said the United States and Britain would reject this.
In another interview, Yuri Fedotov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, said the United States had negotiated an agreement with Iraq's Governing Council in secret.
"In our view, if effort is to be made to settle the problem of Iraq, it should be done collectively," he told the Interfax news agency. "Only this approach can give the settlement process the necessary legitimacy both in internal terms and from the point of view of international law."
In Washington, the State Department did not exclude the possibility of a resolution but said none was imminent.
"We're not foreclosing any options should further Security Council action be deemed useful, but we'll make a judgment on that as we move forward," deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said.
A key council diplomat said the United States was "not willing to pay a price" to get Security Council endorsement. "Either council members agree to a simple resolution or they don't because a resolution is not operationally necessary, the envoy said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Iraqi timetable is expected to include the following dates: a "basic law" written by February followed by indirect elections for a transitional assembly by May 31. This group would elect a provisional government by June 30.
The transitional phase would end with a new constitution, expected to be completed by March 15, 2005, followed by an election for a new government chosen by the general public by the end of December 2005.
The main purpose of the measure would be to confer international legitimacy on the timetable and the U.S. exit strategy from Iraq. But council diplomats said the resolution would only have a marginal impact on the coalition's quest for troops and monies for reconstruction.
The United Nations has not yet decided if it would return staff to Iraq. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Monday he would soon name a special representative to replace Sergio Vieira de Mello, killed when the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was bombed on Aug. 19. Twenty-two people lost their lives, prompting Annan to pull all foreign staff out of Baghdad.
But Annan was careful not to predict a date for the return of U.N. political staff, saying they might operate outside of Iraq.
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