- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

NEW YORK — The United States circulated a new draft resolution calling on Iraq’s Governing Council to set a timeline by Dec. 15 for the transfer of power to Iraqis and increasing the role of the United Nations “as circumstances permit.”

The resolution stresses that the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority remains the true power in Iraq, but notes that it is a temporary authority and intends to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people in phases.

U.S. officials said they expect to formally introduce the draft to the U.N. Security Council today and plan to bring it to a vote by the end of the week.

That would give nations time to review and vote on the four-page document before a conference of international donors opens in Madrid on Oct. 23.

The document was the third draft resolution by Washington to drum up international military and financial support for the increasingly expensive stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

“I’m going to withhold comment on the draft resolution,” U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte told reporters yesterday afternoon. He, however, had referred to it earlier as a “somewhat modified” version of the previous drafts.

In Luxembourg, France and Germany welcomed the draft, with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin saying it represents progress compared with the previous texts.

“The real question is whether this progress is enough for the situation in Iraq,” Mr. de Villepin said: “That is why we want first to be able to analyze this text more deeply.”

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, whose country joined France and Russia in blocking the previous U.S. draft resolutions, described the new document from Washington, co-sponsored by Britain and Spain, as a step in the right direction.

In a separate development, the European Union yesterday agreed to give $233 million toward the reconstruction effort, in addition to previously announced humanitarian assistance of more than $700 million.

The new draft resolution appears to make a concession to Paris, which had demanded to return major responsibilities to the Iraqi people by the end of the year.

But diplomats said yesterday that the latest version does not turn over enough responsibility to either the U.S.-appointed Governing Council or the United Nations.

The draft resolution gives the Governing Council until Dec. 15 “to provide to the [U.N. Security] council … a timetable and program for the drafting of a new constitution for Iraq and for the holding of democratic elections under that constitution.”

U.S. officials have long said that it is not for them to impose “artificial” time limits on the Iraqis as they try to build a representational government for the ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse nation of 24 million.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who effectively buried the previous draft resolutions by saying that the United Nations could not return to Iraq as an adjunct to the U.S.-led efforts, did not comment on the new version yesterday.

But senior U.N. officials privately said the document does not give the United Nations a sufficiently independent hand in political and constitutional issues.

Some also felt that the recurring phrase “as circumstances permit” was a slap at the organization for withdrawing scores of foreign staffers after two recent attacks on the United Nations in Baghdad.

China said the United Nations should have a clearly defined and central role in Iraq’s reconstruction.

“We hope for further improvements,” said Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangye. “We should leave the door open for further role by the United Nations. The U.N. should have a leading, central, key role.”

The U.S. draft resolution urges the world body to “strengthen its vital role in Iraq,” including in relief and economic reconstruction efforts and establishing governmental institutions.

But no explicit nor independent role has been marked out.

The document also reflects German and French demands for transparency in the administration of the Iraqi Development Fund, which eventually will spend Iraq’s oil revenues.

The U.S. authors also seek to legitimize the Governing Council as the representative interim authority in Iraq.

The council, picked by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, has been recognized by the Arab League, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the U.N. General Assembly.

The document “resolves that the Governing Council and its ministers … will embody the sovereignty of the State of Iraq during the transitional period until an internationally recognized, representative government is established and assumes the responsibilities of the [Coalition Provisional] Authority.”

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