- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

NEW YORK — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the major powers made progress yesterday on a Security Council resolution to expand the U.N. presence in Iraq and increase international support for U.S. efforts there.

“I’m pleased and I think my colleagues in the P-5 are pleased that we are seeing some convergence of views with respect to a new resolution,” he told reporters after a private luncheon with the five permanent council members and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

“We will be working on language in the days ahead that tries to capture as much of that convergence as possible,” he said.

Council members have been deeply divided on how quickly to hand over power to Iraqis and what role the United Nations should play in the process.

In one of many meetings yesterday, Mr. Powell sat down with members of the U.S.-approved Iraqi Governing Council and described plans for a gradual transfer of authority to the Iraqis.

A senior U.S. official who attended the meeting quoted the Iraqi council’s leader, Ahmed Chalabi, as saying: “We’re on the same page.”

But, the official added, “how exactly that framework would work is still an issue with some” members of the Security Council.

The United States wants to move forward as quickly as possible on the resolution as it faces increased resistance to its presence in Iraq by dissatisfied local residents who feel that U.S. troops are staying too long and with almost daily attempts to kill Americans and other foreigners.

Mr. Annan yesterday further cut back the remaining foreign U.N. staff in Iraq after a second car-bomb attack against the organization’s headquarters in Baghdad earlier this week.

Some of the 86 international staff will be relocated to Amman, Jordan, with their work carried on by more than 4,000 Iraqi nationals.

“This is not an evacuation, it’s a downsizing,” said U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard, adding that more staff would be transferred during the weekend.

The withdrawal is an acknowledgment that the United Nations is a target of forces battling the U.S.-led coalition.

Before the Aug. 19 bombing in Baghdad that killed 23 and injured more than 100, the world body had deployed more than 300 foreign staff in the capital for 17 agencies and programs.

“We certainly understand the need for people to be safe,” said the State Department official. “At the same time, we all want to see a vital U.N. role that is active on the ground.”

Mr. Powell, who has met with more than 50 world leaders and foreign ministers on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly debate, said he welcomed an offer by Iraqis to take over security in the country, but cautioned that they were not ready yet.

“Intention without capability doesn’t get you anyplace,” he said.

Mr. Powell also said he mourned the demise of Aqila al-Hashimi, one of the 25 members of the Governing Council, who died yesterday, five days after being wounded by an assassin.

Germany, one of the 10 elected members of the Security Council, offered to train Iraqi security forces and police. Mr. Powell had met with German officials on Wednesday.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee gave no indication of whether his country intends to send troops to Iraq.

In remarks to the General Assembly, Mr. Vajpayee spoke of the need to restore basic facilities and infrastructure in Iraq, and to create a road map to return sovereignty to the country.

“The U.N. has a crucial role to play in the political and economic” revitalization of Iraq, he said.

On Wednesday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf rejected sending peacekeepers to Iraq without an invitation from the Iraqi people and a request from the United Nations.

The need to assist Iraqis toward a democratic government and secure environment, and condemnation of the United States and Britain for acting alone to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime have dominated the U.N. discussions.

Critics of the new U.S. proposal have said that it does not go far enough in involving the United Nations and does not set a clear timetable for transfer of authority.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is to meet President Bush today at Camp David, implicitly criticized Washington for acting unilaterally and trying to cut the United Nations out of Iraq’s rehabilitation.

“The position of Russia here is consistent and clear. Only direct participation by the United Nations in the rebuilding of Iraq will enable its people themselves to decide on their future,” Mr. Putin said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad proposed a formula for the Security Council that would prevent any one of the permanent members from blocking action.

The world body “is unfortunately subservient to the United Nations Security Council, which, in turn, is subservient to any single one of the five victors of a war fought more than half a century ago,” he said from the podium.

Mr. Mahathir proposed expanding the council’s permanent and elected membership, and changing the veto rules to require the consent of two permanent and three rotating nations to block action.

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