- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The United States and Britain yesterday introduced a U.N. resolution that would endorse Iraq’s new interim government and the continued presence of the U.S.-led force after June 30, but it would not define the relationship between the two.

That arrangement, which has emerged as the most difficult issue to negotiate with other veto-holding Security Council members such as France and Russia, would be addressed in a separate exchange of letters with the new Iraqi authorities.

The U.S. letter “describes the efforts to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq and support of the political transition, especially for upcoming elections, and to provide security for the U.N. presence in Iraq,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

The resolution would also give the new government control over oil revenue currently put into a development fund run by the U.S.-led coalition, but the existing International Advisory and Monitoring Board would maintain its functions.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the 135,000 U.S. troops will remain under American command, but Iraqi forces will be “under an Iraqi chain of command.”

British officials said the letters would set up a National Security Committee, which would include the Iraqi defense and interior ministers, as well as the commander and deputy commander of the multinational force. It would be chaired by the Iraqi prime minister.

The officials also said that major military operations, such as the offensive in the city of Fallujah last month, could not take place without the committee’s consent. That, they noted, would in effect give Iraqis a veto.

“The precise terms of that relationship will have to be worked out with the Iraqis as they form an interim government,” Mr. Boucher said.

“We would not expect to finalize this resolution until Ambassador Brahimi finishes his efforts to help form the sovereign interim Iraqi government,” he said in reference to Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy who is in Iraq. “But we want to be able to move quickly once that process — once the new government is announced.”

Mr. McClellan said the resolution “marks a new phase in the transition to democracy” in Iraq and was put forward to “broaden international support.”

“It recognizes the end of the occupation and the beginning of sovereignty for the Iraqi people,” he said. “It makes a commitment on behalf of the international community to support that interim government and support the timetable for holding elections that has been agreed to by the Iraqi people and put forward by the Iraqi people.”

The resolution asks the United Nations to take a leading role in the democratic reforms in Iraq and asks for a “multinational force to partner with the Iraqi people in providing for their security,” Mr. McClellan said.

The draft document also urges other countries to contribute militarily in Iraq.

It does not provide a timeline for the troops’ withdrawal, but it sets up a review process within a year. It also says that Iraq’s transitional government, which will be formed after elections in January, will have the right to ask for a review of the forces before the year has expired.

France, which insists on a time frame, said that the resolution cannot be a “blank check” to the United States and that Iraqis must have a say in the multinational force’s operations.

“These issues cannot be left in the shadows or left to parallel arrangements over which the U.N. Security Council has no say,” Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro, apparently referring to the proposed exchange of letters.

Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said the U.S.-British draft was “a good basis for discussion.”

But German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the interim Iraqi government “must be able to make decisions over security issues or else it won’t be truly sovereign.”

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters in Brussels he was optimistic about securing support for the text from France, Germany and other key council members.

cJames G. Lakely contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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