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Powell:  US-Backed Draft Resolution on Iraq Gaining Ground - 2003-09-25

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday he believes the major powers are moving closer together on a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution giving the United Nations a bigger role in peacekeeping and the political transition in Iraq. Mr. Powell is continuing an intensive lobbying effort for a U.S. draft resolution on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

The Bush administration was widely reported Thursday to have hit a dead end in its effort to line up pledges of additional troops and reconstruction money for Iraq.

However emerging from a meeting of the five permanent Security Council member countries hosted by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Mr. Powell said he thinks a consensus has started to emerge on a new resolution that will achieve U.S. aims.

"I'm pleased and I think my colleagues on the P-5 [Permanent Five] are pleased that we're seeing some convergence of views with respect to a new resolution and we'll be working on language in the days ahead that tries to capture as much of that convergence as possible to see what we are able to come to agreement on," he said.

Mr. Powell provided no details on the emerging consensus among the veto-wielding Security Council members. But under questioning, he said that in an earlier meeting he had with members of the Iraqi Governing Council, there was an understanding that the U.S.-led coalition could not yield full governing powers until there was a new constitution and an elected government in Baghdad.

In a similar vein, the secretary brushed aside calls from some members of the appointed council for an early hand-over of security duties to Iraqi forces, saying the newly-constituted units do not yet have the capability to replace coalition troops.

"We would of course welcome Iraqis taking over all of the security responsibilities," he said. "But an intention to take over those responsibilities, without the capability of taking them over, doesn't take you anywhere. So until we build up the Iraqi national police force, and Iraqi national army, and the civil defense forces that are being created, the bulk of the security responsibilities will rest on the coalition forces."

Mr. Powell is engaged in an intense lobbying campaign for the U.S.-backed Iraq resolution. He had bilateral or group meetings Thursday with heads of state or foreign ministers from about 25 countries after seeing more than 50 in a diplomatic blitz on Wednesday.

U.S. officials say they are refining the language of the draft with the hope of bringing as many countries as possible into Iraqi peacekeeping and reconstruction. They concede the negotiating process could take as long as a month.