- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

NEW YORK — America’s U.N. ambassador, John Negroponte, yesterday ruled out further major changes to a U.S. draft resolution on Iraq, dimming prospects for a compromise with reticent U.N. Security Council members before a major donors’ conference later this month.

Several Security Council ambassadors expressed reservations Monday about the latest draft, saying it did not go far enough to expand the U.N. role and speed the handing over of sovereignty to Iraqis.

But U.S. officials said yesterday they did not expect to make substantial further alterations to the draft, which was rewritten and recirculated last week.

“What I told the council members [on Monday] was that if, in the coming days, we put forward a resolution with an idea of putting it to an early vote, that they shouldn’t expect any significant or radical departures from the resolution they have before them,” Mr. Negroponte told reporters.

After that closed-door meeting Monday, several diplomats said that without significant changes to the draft, they would have a hard time accepting it.

That makes it unlikely the Bush administration will achieve its goal of passing a resolution with significant support before an Iraq donor’s conference scheduled for Oct. 24-25 in Madrid.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that the transfer of power to Iraqis was proceeding whether the Security Council acted or not.

“The process of transfer of responsibility to the Iraqis is under way. The process of developing a constitution by Iraqis for Iraqis is under way. Iraqis are running education; they’re running health services; they’re running electricity,” Mr. Boucher said in Washington.

“They’re starting to run Iraq’s foreign relations. They run the police. They’re starting to run border patrols and other aspects of government. This will be a continuing process.”

Mr. Boucher also referred to earlier remarks by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, saying Washington may choose not to put the draft to a vote at all.

France has indicated it would abstain rather than veto the resolution, while Russia and China have been less militant in their opposition to the original draft. Britain supports the draft, as do elected council members Spain and Bulgaria.

The text circulated last week provides a slightly larger role for the United Nations but leaves it subordinate to the U.S.-led coalition in Baghdad. It calls for U.N. experts to advise the Iraqis on drafting a constitution, setting up effective government agencies and supervising elections.

But U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday that the United Nations should not be asked to play a supporting role to the Coalition Provisional Authority. The comments put an end to the somewhat tepid support for the resolution voiced earlier by Russian and German officials.

The draft also encourages the Iraqi Governing Council to set its own goals but provides no explicit timetable for a restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.

As in previous drafts, the text asks nations to contribute to a U.N.-authorized multinational peacekeeping force that would be under U.S. command.

So far, only Turkey has volunteered to send troops — an offer the Iraqi Governing Council yesterday indicated it may oppose.

David Sands in Washington contributed to this report.

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