- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

NEW YORK — The Bush administration yesterday circulated a draft resolution to give the United Nations a larger role in Iraq’s reconstruction and reassure nations that it will hand power quickly to the Iraqi people.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte spent much of the day explaining the draft to foreign officials. The document does not spell out a specific timetable for Iraqis to draft a constitution and hold elections.

It does encourage the United Nations to “strengthen” its role in Iraq, specifically in humanitarian assistance, building democratic institutions and training police and judges.

It also would make all troops in Iraq part of a single U.N.-authorized multinational force under American command.

“We have tried to respond to the desire to see more of a sense of movement and momentum on the political process, to move more quickly towards a timeline and then implementation of the political process,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters yesterday.

“I think we made clear that the multinational force is related to the political mission, and that this whole process is going to be fulfilled and then terminated through a transfer of authority and power to an increasingly responsible Iraqi government that will, after constitutional elections, be able to assume full authority there,” Mr. Boucher said.

Mr. Powell spoke by phone yesterday to a half-dozen foreign ministers from nations on the 15-member Security Council. Mr. Negroponte convened an afternoon meeting of the ambassadors of the five veto-wielding permanent council nations — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia.

Movement at the United Nations came on a day when two American soldiers died in a shootout in Baghdad, and Iraqi police battled demonstrators near the center of the city and in northern Iraq in a clash over jobs.

Clashes like this, as well as persistent attacks on coalition soldiers and other foreigners, have led some governments to conclude that a speedy transfer of power back to the Iraqis is the only way to restore order in an increasingly precarious country.

France has insisted on an immediate symbol of sovereignty for Iraq, followed by a quick transfer of power.

However, France also has assured the United States that it will not exercise its veto to block a new resolution despite continuing disagreements with the United States.

The new draft, which will be introduced formally in the Security Council as early as next week, would ask the Iraqi Governing Council to draw up its own timeline.

Specifics in a scheduled transition reportedly would be included in a nonbinding annex to the resolution that is still being drafted.

Negotiations are to continue today with the Governing Council slated to make its debut with Ahmad Chalabi — the Governing Council’s rotating leader for September — addressing the U.N. General Assembly.

Coincidentally, the United States took over the rotating presidency of the Security Council yesterday for the month.

The new draft resolution — which replaces an August document that was never formally tabled — also authorizes a multinational force, under a single command, to contribute to “the maintenance of security and stability” in Iraq.

It calls on the force commander — an American — to report to the Security Council every six months.

U.S. officials say privately that they hope the draft will win over troop contributions from other nations and encourage assistance for Iraq’s reconstruction from both governments and international institutions.

Meanwhile, the United Nations continued to draw down its international personnel, a move begun immediately after the August bombing of its headquarters. It now has fewer than 30 international staff and more than 4,000 local employees in Iraq.

“As everyone knows, this is a war zone and the conflict affects everyone, principally the Iraqi people who have to live in these conditions,” U.N. official Kevin Kennedy told reporters in Baghdad.

“We have had to adjust our operations to the realities of the situation on the ground.”

U.S. officials say they hope to have a new resolution approved by the Security Council in time for a donors conference scheduled for Oct. 23 in Madrid.

The Bush administration hopes to secure pledges of at least $35 billion from other nations for Iraq’s reconstruction.

Nicholas Kralev in Washington contributed to this story, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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