Secretary of State Colin Powell mounted a diplomatic blitz at the United Nations Wednesday for a U.S.-backed draft Security Council resolution that would broaden the U.N. role in peacekeeping and the political transition in Iraq. U.S. officials are confident of getting the resolution through the council but are making no predictions about a timetable.
Mr. Powell held bilateral or group meetings during the day with heads of state or foreign ministers from nearly 50 countries including a joint session with the ten non-permanent Security Council member states. With France, a vocal critic of U.S.-Iraq policy, saying it will not "stand in the way" of a resolution, U.S. officials are confident of getting the measure through the council.
The thrust of U.S. diplomacy now is to fine-tune the draft in order to maximize the number of countries that will join Iraqi security operations under new U.N. mandate.
A senior State Department official who briefed reporters on the day's meetings said the broader support for the resolution in the 15-member council, the more "catalytic" the measure will be in drawing other countries into what is to be a U.N. force under an American commander. He said Mr. Powell's meetings were focussed not so much on the multi-national force, but on the mechanism and timing for transferring full authority from the U.S.-led interim administration to an elected Iraqi leadership.
While France and others had pressed for a handover in matter of weeks, the senior official said that "everybody" involved now recognizes this is a gradual process, and while there will be a time-table for the transfer, it will be a "realistic" one. He also said that given the huge investment in Iraq by the United States in terms of blood and resources, he said the Bush administration and American taxpayers will insist on a transition plan that will both work, and be democratic.
Mr. Powell joined President Bush's meeting Wednesday morning with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and later met with his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. The Bush administration has made no secret of its desire to see both Pakistan and Turkey, Muslim states with close ties to Washington, included in an Iraqi peacekeeping force.
The senior official said the Turkish government is "very interested" in taking part but faces the problem of getting a deployment approved by the parliament.
At the same time, he made clear the United States would welcome an endorsement of Iraq peacekeeping by the Arab League or the Organization of Islamic countries, a step Mr. Musharraf said Wednesday would help facilitate Pakistani participation.
Mr. Powell continues the diplomatic lobbying Thursday with bilateral meetings with, among others, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Qatar, and group meetings with the Gulf Cooperation Council, members of the Iraq Governing Council, and a luncheon with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member states hosted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.