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US can't sell resolution on Iraq
( 2003-08-29 10:46) (USA Today)

U.S. diplomats said Thursday that they are making little or no progress in their push for a United Nations resolution that would persuade reluctant allies to commit new peacekeeping troops to Iraq.

The diplomats have floated various ideas to jump-start the moribund talks at the United Nations, including the possibility of turning over Iraq peacekeeping duties to a multinational force that would be headed by a U.S. general.

But the countries that can provide the tens of thousands of troops the Bush administration is seeking continue to demand a shift in U.S. policy that would give the United Nations wide authority over political, military and humanitarian issues in Iraq. There is no sign the Bush administration would agree to that, and negotiations appear to be stalemated.

"It's not dead yet," said a U.S. official involved in the talks. "But everyone knows we're going to have to give something up, and there has not been a decision at the White House to do that." U.S. and U.N. diplomats say deep tensions remain on the U.N. Security Council, which was split this year when it refused to authorize the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

U.S. diplomats first suggested the idea of a multinational force to Security Council members last week, the day after the truck bombing Aug. 19 at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. Secretary of State Colin Powell broached the issue last Thursday in a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

U.N. officials say Annan believes a multinational force under U.S. control could be part of a solution. But Annan warned last week that U.N. approval for such a force "would also imply not just burden-sharing, but also sharing decisions and responsibility. ... If that doesn't happen, I think it's going to be very difficult."

Pentagon officials continue to deny a need for more U.S. troops in Iraq. The U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Richard Sanchez, said Thursday in Baghdad that he does not need additional forces, but more intelligence on anti-U.S. activities. "It is clear to me at this point in time given the missions and given the tasks, it is not a matter of additional soldiers," Sanchez said. As of this week, there were 136,000 U.S. troops and 22,000 troops from 28 countries in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

Behind the scenes, the administration seems increasingly frantic to find an infusion of international troops and financial contributions for Iraq. But the United States faces the difficult task of soliciting many of the same countries that opposed the war. Countries targeted for potential troop deployments include Germany, France, Russia, Turkey and India. U.S. and British officials hope to make enough headway that the text of a resolution could be ready by mid-September, when the U.N. General Assembly opens its annual session.

Security Council diplomats say a deal might be approved if it included a multinational force and also ceded new U.N. authority over political and humanitarian issues. But so far, no specific U.S. language has emerged, and Washington shows no sign of a major shift.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called Thursday for a "real international force" under a U.N. mandate. "The measures to be taken cannot simply be an increase or an adjustment of the current occupation forces," he said. A spokeswoman for the French Embassy in Washington said her government had no specific reaction to the idea of a U.S.-led multinational force since no formal proposal has been made. But for France, she said, the issue is broader than security. The government of President Jacques Chirac would also like to see U.N. supervision of Iraq's political transition.

U.N. forces headed by a single country are not unusual. France leads a U.N.-approved force in Congo, for example, and a U.S. general led a multinational force in Somalia in the early 1990s.

But in those cases, there was widespread political agreement on the Security Council on how to try to aid those countries. Now, there is intense disagreement about the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

Some foreign policy analysts say it was na?ve for the administration to believe that last week's truck bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad would make uneasy allies more inclined to send troops to Iraq. The blast killed 23 people, including chief U.N. representative Sergio Vieira de Mello.

"It's happy talk to think that countries that opposed the war will, in light of last week's bombing, suddenly decide that they were wrong and suddenly send their troops into harm's way," says Lee Feinstein, a former State Department official on the Council for Foreign Relations. "If that's going to happen, it's going to take a major diplomatic push by us."

Visits to the region by Congress members during their summer recess have raised concerns about the need for more troops, whether U.S. or foreign. Some of the legislators were in Baghdad the day of the U.N. bombing. The continuing violence, including the bombing of Jordan's embassy in Baghdad, oil pipeline sabotage and daily attacks on U.S. military forces, has heightened a sense of unease.

Calls for more troops cross party lines in the Senate. Longtime advocates of more troops and broader U.N. participation include Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain has called for sending another Army division, or about 18,000 troops, to Iraq. Biden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said 40,000 to 60,000 more troops are needed.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who visited Iraq in July, said that although the administration has "continued, perhaps understandably, to avoid going through the U.N.," the situation in Iraq requires compromise. "While I share a deep frustration with France and Germany, now is the time to seek a broader coalition," she said.

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