- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2003

U.S. officials said yesterday they were confident that the third draft of a U.S.-sponsored U.N. resolution to lift sanctions on Iraq could win at least the nine votes needed to pass the Security Council.

But they left the door open to further changes in the text if they would secure the support of all 15 council members.

The Bush administration also said that it would put the new measure to a vote as early as today, before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell meets later this week in Paris with his colleagues from the Group of Eight countries, most of which are council members.

Among the concessions Washington made in its latest draft was broadening the responsibilities of the U.N. in Iraq. The secretary-general will now have a “representative” there instead of a “coordinator.”

The resolution would also phase out the oil-for-food humanitarian program, relied on by two-thirds of Iraqis for their food supplies, in six months rather than the four in an earlier draft.

In addition, the new text opens the door to a return of U.N. arms inspectors, though not in the immediate future.

“The text that we presented, in many ways, tries to address a number of the issues that we have heard raised by other governments,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters. “We think that this is a fair and objective text that now addresses many of those issues.”

He said the latest version, which was introduced in New York late Monday, is “the text that should be voted” and is “substantially and significantly complete.”

But he added: “We’ll just have to wait and see if there is some last-minute intervention that causes us to change that.”

Asked if the United States hoped to get 15 votes, Mr. Boucher said, “It’s always possible to get 15. We are still working on it.”

A U.S. official said the resolution, which was co-sponsored by Britain and Spain, could “easily get nine votes.” He also noted that he did not expect vetoes from France or Russia. Washington blamed those countries’ March threats to block a measure explicitly authorizing the war for the document’s failure.

“Whether France wants to vote for a resolution that helps the Iraqi people or not is ultimately a question that France will have to answer for itself,” Mr. Boucher said.

Mr. Powell conducted a marathon of phone discussions with leaders from Security Council nations yesterday, including Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and several foreign ministers: Russia’s Igor Ivanov, France’s Dominique de Villepin, Spain’s Ana Palacio and Germany’s Joschka Fischer.

“The gist of what the secretary’s telling members is that we have made changes that go in the direction of many of the issues that these various members had raised,” Mr. Boucher said.

He noted that the draft on Monday was tabled in blue, which means that the other council members have up to 48 hours to review it and make comments before it is brought to a vote. That puts the voting time as early as late afternoon today, a few hours before Mr. Powell is scheduled to take off for Paris.

Although they did not signal how they would vote, some permanent council members were more conciliatory toward the U.S. position yesterday than they have been in the past.

Mr. Ivanov said yesterday that an agreement on the resolution could be reached this week, even though some outstanding issues remain. He specifically cited peacekeeping provisions, on which the document is rather vague.

“I do not rule out that this week we could get that kind of agreement, which through the U.N. resolution will help create the necessary conditions for international cooperation to regulate the situation in postwar Iraq,” Mr. Ivanov said.

“The United States now understands very well that without the support of the international community it is too difficult, I would even say impossible, to solve the problem,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted him as telling students during a visit to Ukraine.

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