- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

NEW YORK — The United States could seek a vote as early as this afternoon on its latest draft resolution on Iraq, despite the unenthusiastic reception from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and tepid response from many Security Council members.

Russia, Germany and France circulated a set of suggested changes to the U.S.-sponsored draft shortly after U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte formally introduced it to the U.N. Security Council yesterday morning.

The trio’s amendments were aimed at ensuring that the U.S.-led coalition cede power as quickly as possible to an Iraqi interim government, and not overlap militarily or politically with Iraqi institutions.

U.S. officials said they were undeterred by criticisms of the four-page draft, which was co-sponsored by Britain, Spain and Cameroon, and had instructed council diplomats to prepare to vote on the draft this afternoon or, more likely, tomorrow.

“We’re close to the end of this process, and we’ll have to review their last-minute suggestions to see if any of them can be added to improve the text,” said Richard Grenell, a U.S. Mission spokesman. “We’re very much at the end, don’t have much time left.”

The Americans are eager to get a resolution in place well before an international conference scheduled for late next week in Madrid, where countries will be asked to donate funds for Iraq’s reconstruction.

Mr. Annan was visibly displeased with the latest draft, Washington’s third attempt to draft a Security Council resolution that will make it easier for nations to contribute troops, money and training to Iraq’s stabilization and reconstruction.

Mr. Annan has been particularly reluctant to return U.N. staff to Iraq unless they have a defined mandate and operate independently of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

“I have indicated that, given certain circumstances, our role would be easier, and we will be able to do more,” he said, referring to previous calls for an autonomous U.N. presence in Iraq.

“Obviously, the resolution does not represent a major shift in the thinking of the coalition,” Mr. Annan told reporters yesterday morning, adding that he hoped negotiations will continue to draft a resolution “that will get broad support.”

Germany, Russia and France yesterday proposed six changes to the American-sponsored draft.

“The sponsors clearly indicated that they envision a process, an evolution of responsibilities on the ground, and we want this concept to be spelled out clearly,” said Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov.

“Some of the elements that are crucial to the success of Security Council discussions are not very clear. Some are slightly ambiguous.”

U.S. officials declined to comment in detail on the proposed amendments.

“We think we are making good progress toward adoption of this resolution,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday. If council members “have further changes that support the resolution and its intent, it may be possible to take some of those into account.”

Although minor changes are possible, it is highly unlikely that Washington would agree to an immediate withdrawal of foreign troops on the day that an internationally recognized, representative government is sworn in, as the three suggest.

Nor is the Bush administration likely to agree to the request that the coalition submit to the council its own timetable for returning governing responsibilities and authority to the Iraqis.

“Not gonna happen,” said one U.S. official.

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