- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2003

Russia, France and Germany will call for a new U.N. Security Council resolution to turn over control of Iraq’s reconstruction and resources to the Iraqi Governing Council while allowing an international military force in that country to remain under U.S. command.

The ideas, circulated yesterday as proposed amendments to a U.S. draft resolution on Iraq, serve to bolster the legitimacy of the U.S.-created IGC a day after its representative was seated at a meeting of the Arab League, but would sharply reduce the role of the U.S.-led occupation authority headed by L. Paul Bremer.

State Department officials quickly responded that the United States would not accept a marginalized role in Iraq before a constitution is written and an elected government is in place.

“You can’t pretend the war never happened. You can’t pretend the coalition never happened,” said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

Mr. Boucher said a draft resolution circulated by the United States last week “takes as a point of departure the reality of the situation — that the coalition is already working with the [ICG] toward a constitution and elections, and also to move forward on the exercise of sovereignty.”

The European drafts would have the United Nations guide the Iraqi council through preparations for a new constitution and elections.

Speaking earlier in the day, President Bush said differences between key nations should not be exaggerated.

“I think it’s in everybody’s interest that Iraq be free and peaceful,” Mr. Bush said. France, Germany and other Security Council members “may want to fine-tune a resolution, and we’re open to suggestions. My call, however, is to let us not get caught up in past bickering. Let us move forward.”

A Russian proposal circulated at the United Nations yesterday would provide for a multinational peacekeeping force composed of the existing coalition forces, “and working under the authority currently in Iraq, to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability.”

The amendment calls on nations to contribute to the force, which would have a one-year mandate, extendable by the U.N. secretary-general.

A second amended resolution, put forward jointly by France and Germany, makes almost no mention of a multinational force, except to note that it should “create security and stability conditions” conducive to meeting the political timetables.

The two drafts, obtained by The Washington Times, were circulated after ambassadors from the five permanent Security Council nations met privately on Iraq. The drafts could provide the basis for discussions on Saturday, when U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan convenes a meeting of the foreign ministers of the five permanent nations in Geneva.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is scheduled to attend that meeting, as is Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov of Russia, Dominique de Villepin of France, Jack Straw of Britain and Li Zhaoxing of China.

The two drafts unequivocally affirm the legitimacy of the 25-member Governing Council while authorizing the United Nations to work closely with the group to craft a timetable for the completion of an Iraqi constitution and the democratic election of a representative government.

The French-German draft describes the U.S.-appointed council and an interim Cabinet it names as “the trustee of Iraqi sovereignty until the processes leading to an elected and fully representative government are completed.”

Both drafts also spell out a greater political role for the United Nations.

France, Russia and Germany were among the most vocal opponents of Washington’s war to depose Saddam Hussein. Some analysts say their insistence that Iraqis control the country’s resources is spurred by concerns they will be cut out of the lucrative rebuilding of Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

The Russian draft calls for Mr. Annan’s as-yet-unnamed special representative in Iraq to draft a timetable for and a program leading to the formation of an internationally recognized government.

The previous representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was among the 23 U.N. staffers and others killed when a truck bomb exploded outside the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19. That mission has been reduced to about 100 essential foreign personnel, plus Iraqi staffers.

The U.S. push for stronger U.N. support comes as a new poll finds that American opinion of the world body’s effectiveness is at its lowest ever. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll released yesterday found that 60 percent of respondents said the United Nations is doing a poor job, with 37 percent rating its performance as good.

The poll, conducted last month, was taken after the bombing of the U.N. offices in Baghdad but before Mr. Bush decided to seek a new U.N. resolution for the Iraqi occupation. More than half of those polled, 55 percent, said the Security Council’s failure to endorse the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had lowered their opinion of the world body.

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