- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003

NEW YORK — The United States has narrowed differences with France by pledging to help draft an Iraqi constitution in six months and a government in one year, but many U.N. Security Council members say they will wait to see a proposed new draft resolution before they commit troops or aid.

The Bush administration is expected to circulate quietly a new resolution on Iraq by early next week to entice more nations to contribute to Iraq’s reconstruction.

The State Department and the White House have begun conferring on changes to the draft after a tightly scheduled series of meetings last week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly debate.

“We’ve taken on board suggestions from the French and the Russians and others,” a U.S. official said.

Among the suggestions and demands: a larger and more concrete political role for the United Nations; a prime place for the organization in the transition to a permanent Iraqi government; and reducing Washington’s control over lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq’s battered infrastructure and oil industry.

The administration would like to have a resolution in place before a conference of international donors for Iraq, scheduled for Oct. 23 in Madrid.

France’s U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, said yesterday that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s pledge to try to get an Iraqi constitution within six months was “interesting.”

“But it doesn’t answer all the problems we would like to see solved,” he said.

Paris, the harshest critic of Washington in the council, has said it would abstain from voting rather than cast a veto. However, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Sunday that France’s consent will require “a change of reality on the ground.”

Pakistan, also on the Security Council but without veto power, has all but ruled out sending troops to Iraq as part of a U.S.-led multinational force.

Munir Akram, Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador, said Islamabad would send troops only “as the desire of the Iraqi people, not as part of an occupation.”

The Turkish Parliament is evaluating whether to send troops, and a decision could be reached by early next month, a government spokesman said in Ankara yesterday.

South Korea, which has sent 700 engineering and medical troops to Iraq, yesterday signaled a willingness to send combat troops even as it faced street protests against the plan.

U.S. officials have declined to comment on the changes from the first proposal to the council, which was circulated late last month. Officials cautioned that the language is likely to concentrate on goals and intentions, rather than offer deadlines for Iraq’s return to self-rule.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that the United Nations is willing to work with the U.S.-led coalition to rehabilitate Iraq, as long as the world body’s role is well-defined and achievable.

But that is looking difficult now.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the organization has transferred all but about 50 international staffers out of Iraq amid continuing threats and attacks.

There were more than 600 internationally recruited personnel in Iraq at the time of a bombing of the U.N. compound in Baghdad on Aug. 19, and 86 last week. U.N. officials say they will not increase the Baghdad staff until security improves.

The pullout of staff is having an effect on the U.N.-run oil-for-food program, which is to be shut down Nov. 21 under the U.N. resolution that formally recognizes the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

The oil-for-food program, which provides staples for more than 80 percent of the Iraqi population, cannot properly transfer the complex operation to the coalition with such a small staff, Undersecretary General Benon Sevan told the council yesterday.

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