- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

NEW YORK — Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, yesterday thanked U.S. and British forces for liberating the Iraqi people and rebuked those who continue to oppose American-led efforts to rescue and rebuild his nation after decades under a dictator.

“To those who stood with the dictator and who continue to question the intentions of the American and British governments in undertaking this liberation, we invite you to come and visit the mass graves where half a million of our citizens lie. Come and visit the dried-up marshes. Come and visit Halabja, where chemicals were dropped on civilians. Come and examine the lists of the disappeared whose right to live was taken away from them by Saddam Hussein,” Mr. Chalabi said.

He spoke from the podium at the close of the two-week session of the U.N. General Assembly, a position reserved for national leaders or their designated representatives. In Mr. Chalabi’s case, it was a symbolic acceptance by the world body of post-Saddam Iraq and its temporary U.S.-appointed Governing Council.

The speech followed fierce criticism of the United States’ latest draft of a resolution to broaden the U.N. role in Iraq’s reconstruction, including unusually harsh words from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and continuing objections by key nations on the U.N. Security Council.

“Obviously, it’s not going in the direction I had recommended,” Mr. Annan said referring to the latest proposed resolution that the United States began circulating Wednesday. “But I will still have to study it further.”

Nearly half the 15-member Security Council also expressed disappointment with or reservations about the draft U.N. resolution, saying that it does not give the Security Council, the United Nations or the Iraqi Governing Council sufficient authority.

The main criticism is that it gives no hint of a time frame for formally handing power over to the Iraqis.

“We need a timetable developed by the Iraqis through national dialogue and consensus-building that would step by step, gradually but clearly, lead in a certain time frame to the full restoration of sovereignty,” said Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov.

Representatives of China, France and Germany expressed their reservations after a three-hour meeting yesterday afternoon, as did other council members Mexico, Pakistan, Angola, Chile and Syria.

The new resolution would ask the United Nations to assist the U.S.-appointed 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, in cooperation with the occupation authorities, in preparing a constitution and holding elections.

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell warned against a premature handover of power to the Iraqis. “Much work has to be done first,” he said.

“But I think it’s a bit naive to suggest that any time in the next couple of weeks or months, you can simply say: ‘Here are 25 people; they seem to be getting along. Let’s give them responsibility for the country,’” Mr. Powell said.

Several nations said the resolution — which Britain joined yesterday as a co-sponsor — also gives too little power to the Security Council in drafting the mandate of what would become a U.N.-authorized but U.S.-commanded multinational force for Iraq.

Billions of dollars will be pledged later this month at the donors conference for Iraq, and many governments want to make sure their own companies have a chance at securing lucrative contracts.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte defended the draft resolution.

“I think we’re very mindful of the vital importance and vital role that the United Nations can play in Iraq, and our draft reflects that awareness,” Mr. Negroponte told reporters.

Consultations are expected to resume Monday, with the aim of passing a resolution before the Oct. 22 donors conference in Madrid.

Some nations on the Security Council have been pressing the United States to give the Iraqis some sort of symbolic gesture of sovereignty, but it was not clear if Mr. Chalabi’s speech — arranged with much behind-the-scenes support from Washington — entered into those discussions.

Mr. Chalabi served as president of the Governing Council in September and was allowed to speak on behalf of the council yesterday, even though his one-month term had technically expired.

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