Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday started a major diplomatic effort to internationalize peacekeeping of Iraq, circulating a resolution that would have the U.S. military reporting to the United Nations.
“The U.S. will remain the commander of the unified command,” Mr. Powell told reporters at the State Department. “And there will be an element in the resolution that calls upon the United States, as the leader of the military coalition, to report on a regular basis to the United Nations.”
Mr. Powell said the effort to bring the U.N. Security Council “into the game” was unrelated to mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq. In recent weeks, the death toll has sparked calls from Democrats for greater U.N. control of Iraq.
Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said he was “very pleased” that President Bush authorized Mr. Powell to seek the U.N. resolution during a White House meeting Tuesday.
“There has been, as you know, a lot of infighting within the White House with regard to whether to do this,” the South Dakota Democrat told reporters at the Capitol. “I’m very pleased that, at long last, we are.”
Other Democrats said it is proof that the administration’s approach to both the war and rebuilding Iraq is a failure, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, calling the announcement “a welcome admission that the current policy is not realistic and not sustainable.”
In addition to calling for a greater role by the United Nations, the resolution would ask the Iraqi Governing Council to propose a timetable for gradually resuming sovereignty of the war-torn country. That would allow most of the American and multinational forces to eventually pull out.
Initial reaction to Mr. Powell’s proposal, which began circulating among Security Council members yesterday, has been mixed. Germany reportedly ruled out any military role in Iraq, while Russia signaled it would be willing to place troops under U.S. command.
While a variety of nations have expressed a willingness to become more involved in Iraq, none want to be in command of a U.N.-authorized military operation.
“I don’t know of any of my Security Council colleagues who said, ‘We want to be the military commander.’ Quite the contrary,” said Mr. Powell, who yesterday discussed the draft with Foreign Ministers Joschka Fischer of Germany, Dominique de Villepin of France and Igor Ivanov of Russia.
“Nor has anybody in the senior leadership of the U.N. said they wish to become military commander.”
However, nations have expressed desires “to know more about what’s going on” with Iraq’s reconstruction, Mr. Powell said.
At the United Nations yesterday, diplomats appeared to be waiting patiently — and sometimes skeptically — for the U.S. proposal.
Several diplomats said they would consider a resolution that shares power and responsibility in Iraq, not just the risks. Several said they hoped Washington would accept significant international input on reconstruction and economic issues.
The Bush administration has been reluctant to cede power to the United Nations or governments that have not explicitly joined its ruling coalition. But without a Security Council authorization of a multinational force, few nations will even consider sending troops to Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on his way to the Mideast, told the Associated Press that countries that donate troops and money in Iraq would have a voice in both civil and military operations there.
“To the extent countries step up with troops and support and money, they have a seat at the table,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “They have the opportunity to work with us and the Iraqis.”
Copies of the draft were unavailable yesterday, but Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of Britain, Washington’s closest ally on the Security Council, yesterday recommended a sort of diplomatic realism in the interest of helping the Iraqi people.
“We must now come together on Iraq as she is today,” said Mr. Parry, who holds the rotating Security Council presidency for the month of September.
He rejected the notion that U.S. and British forces would “cede control” to an international coalition. “I prefer ‘how we move forward collectively,’” he told reporters yesterday.
A meeting of the five permanent Security Council members — including Russia and China — could be held as early as this morning, some diplomats said.
U.S. diplomats say the text of the draft resolution could be changed in the discussions to take place this week and next week in New York.
“This is not a draft to be pushed to a vote, but a draft to be discussed” with other governments, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
Mr. Boucher said U.S. officials do not believe the lead American role in any proposed multinational Iraqi military mission will prove a sticking point in the coming U.N. deliberations over a new resolution.
“Countries that want to participate militarily want to participate in a militarily competent operation,” he said, adding that a single, unified command is a “military necessity for efficiency.”
U.S. command of the Iraqi military operation has not been the issue for countries reluctant to commit troops to date, Mr. Boucher said.
“The U.N. mandate has been the issue,” he said.
Several countries that could provide large contingents of troops — notably India, Turkey and Pakistan — have signaled that participating in the Iraqi security and reconstruction mission would be much easier politically if it were organized under a U.N. umbrella.
Mr. Boucher said the draft resolution does not mandate participation in the Iraqi mission. Each government will still decide individually whether and how it would contribute to the mission, the State Department spokesman said.
The new U.S. resolution, a draft of which was obtained by the Associated Press, also would:
Call on U.N.-member states to help train and equip an Iraqi police force.
Ask the U.N. representative in Iraq to facilitate a “national dialogue and consensus building” to promote the political transition and help organize elections.
Ask all U.N.-member states and regional and international organizations to “accelerate the provision of substantial financial contributions” for Iraq’s reconstruction.
Call on countries in the region “to prevent the transit of terrorists, arms for terrorists, and financing that would support terrorists.”
Betsy Pisik, Stephen Dinan and David R. Sands contributed to this report.