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Muslim nations press for pivotal UN role in Iraq
( 2003-10-14 14:14) (Agencies)

Islamic foreign ministers meeting in Malaysia sought the rewording of a summit resolution on Iraq on Tuesday to strengthen a call for a dominant role for the United Nations there.

As Washington sought to rally the Security Council behind its vision of the way forward in the war-shattered nation, some ministers also pushed for a one-year time limit on the U.S.-led occupation.

"Some want the resolution to say the U.N. should play a pivotal role in Iraq," Bashar Jaafari, a senior Syrian diplomat, told reporters ahead of Thursday's opening of the two-day Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit.

The Malaysian hosts were adamant that the United Nations should take charge, while welcoming signs that Washington will pass more authority to the Iraqi Provisional Governing Council in mid-December.

"I think the most important thing is that there is an end date, which is better than an open-ended situation," Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told reporters.

"But the most important thing, I think, is they should bring the U.N. to play the central role, otherwise there will still be a lot of problems," Syed Hamid said.

"The U.N. should be the one that supervises, undertakes the whole exercise and it would be easier for it to have international legitimacy," he said.

The summit in Putrajaya, Malaysia's new administrative capital, will be the largest gathering of Muslim leaders since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.


U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who had been due to attend, pulled out due to negotiations at the Security Council in New York over the latest U.S. draft on Iraq.

The United States revised its draft resolution on Monday to include a deadline of December 15 for the handover of power to the Iraqis, with the Provisional Governing Council picked by the United States performing the role as interim administration.

Some delegates welcomed that as a step forward.

"Of course this is a serious and genuine move and if implemented in good faith, and conditions are conducive to the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty, it will be good for the Iraqi people, the region and the Muslim world," Musa Braizat, a senior Jordanian Foreign Ministry official, told reporters.

But the U.S. draft resolution did not create a provisional government.

Nor did it give the United Nations a central role in drafting a constitution and organizing elections, putting into doubt whether Annan would return political staff to Iraq following the August 19 bombing of U.N. offices in Baghdad that killed 22 people.

Nor was it immediately clear whether the latest U.S. draft would find favor among the Muslim countries Washington hopes might share some of the burden of stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq.

"We have to study the document before we can make any assessment," a senior Saudi delegate told Reuters. "But any move to enhance the role of the U.N. is a positive move."

Annan had been expected to open a business forum on Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit and the meetings leading up to it, before attending the summit itself.

"He's involved in delicate negotiations at the Security Council, so he can't leave the country," a U.N. official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

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