- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

BAGHDAD — U.S. authorities yesterday effectively postponed the establishment of an interim Iraq administration for at least a month, and the three major critics of the Iraq war said in Paris that they would back a U.N. resolution today to end sanctions on the country.

France, Germany and Russia “have decided to vote for this resolution and to work to find a consensus within the Security Council,” French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said after talks with his German and Russian counterparts, Joschka Fischer and Igor Ivanov.

“Even if this text is not perfect, it takes into account our concerns,” he said of the U.S.-backed resolution lifting U.N. sanctions and defining the role of coalition forces in Iraq.

In Baghdad, U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer said it would be mid-July before coalition forces convene a meeting of Iraqi political forces that is seen as a precursor to the establishment of an interim government. The meeting had been planned for late this month.

Mr. Bremer said U.S. authorities will use the delay to “broaden our reach with partners we’re talking to,” according to pool reports. “We want a government representative of all Iraqi people. That’s the process we’re in now.”

But the news of the postponement deepened the frustration of Iraqi political leaders, who accused Washington of consolidating power instead of turning it over to the Iraqi people.

“Why this postponement?” asked Yadullah Jani Ulfat of the pro-U.S. Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. “This procrastination just means they’re trying to form a government of parties that are in complete line with their own policies,” he told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, which is run by Mr. Bremer, is about to change its name to the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The change reflects a narrowing of priorities for the sprawling organization, which has all but eliminated the humanitarian-assistance pillar from its key objectives for Iraq.

CPA, not ORHA, has been used in documents dated May 18 onward, although officials said it’s not clear when the change will become official.

The U.N. resolution, which is to come to a vote in New York this morning, would immediately lift the sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Iraq in 1990. It also would put the country’s oil revenues into a new development fund to be spent on reconstruction and humanitarian needs at the direction of the coalition.

France and Russia had argued for a stronger U.N. role but, in a move that seemed designed to avoid a wider split in trans-Atlantic relations, dropped their opposition last night after the United States made several modest revisions.

The Iraqi political parties also have objections to the text, which they fear will consolidate financial, political and managerial power in the hands of the Americans, instead of encouraging a speedy turnover.

U.S. promises “are changing all the time,” said Hamid Al-Bayati, a political negotiator for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, a Shi’ite group with ties to Iran. “The agreement was to have an Iraqi government as soon as possible, the day [Saddam Husseins] government fell.”

Representatives of the seven leading political groups in Iraq have been complaining for days that Mr. Bremer is not moving quickly enough to build up the local political process, leaving a power vacuum that has allowed for rampant looting and lawlessness.

The Americans have convened two meetings of Iraqi academics, businessmen, political and religious leaders to discuss the formation of an interim government and the drafting of a constitution.

A third meeting had been scheduled for before the end of the month, and Mr. Bremer’s predecessor, Jay Garner, had said the interim government could be in place within days of that conference.

But that schedule would not be met, Mr. Bremer said yesterday.

“I don’t think it will be in June. We’re talking now like sometime in July to get a national conference put together,” he told reporters accompanying him on a tour of a refurbished Baghdad jail. Pressed for a date, he said, “Mid-July.”

Even before his remarks, the leading political parties that are working most closely with Washington had complained of being sidelined from a process that they said should have been much further along.

In private conversations, representatives of many of the groups have said the United States is not respectful of their concerns and ideas for improving security, restoring public services and building confidence in a transitional administration.

“They keep saying, ‘We will not stay here a day longer than we have to,’” said an official with one of the groups. “And we keep saying, ‘Look, when will you turn it over to us and go?’”

The seven members of the leadership council — including the Iraqi National Congress led by Ahmed Chalabi and two pro-U.S. Kurdish parties — have maintained that they, not Washington, should control the guest list and agenda at the next meeting.

Mr. Bremer appeared at the al-Karkh jail in Baghdad with former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who arrived in the capital yesterday to advise on security issues.

“This is the first of several places where we can detain criminals we apprehend around Baghdad in our vigorous efforts to restore law and order to this wonderful city,” Mr. Bremer said.

“We are very aware of the concerns of the Iraqi people for security. There certainly is a law and order problem, especially at night.”

Looters are being held for three weeks at a detention facility at Baghdad’s main airport.

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