The United States has won a diplomatic victory at the U.N. Security Council. After weeks of high-level negotiation, the 15-member Council unanimously adopted a resolution that essentially approves Washington's plan for rebuilding Iraq.
It was a surprising turnaround. Just days after the U.S.-drafted resolution on Iraq seemed mired in controversy, it garnered the support of every Security Council member.
Even Syria, a country the United States accuses of sponsoring terrorism, grudgingly accepted the will of the majority after France, Germany and Russia said they would vote yes.
Secretary General Kofi Annan, who earlier warned of the importance of a broad mandate, congratulated members for reaching a consensus. But he warned that sovereignty must be handed to Iraqis, as quickly as possible.
"The process has been difficult, but the outcome is a clear demonstration of the will of all the members of the Security Council to place the interests of the Iraqi people above other considerations," said Mr. Annan. "Our common objective is to restore peace and stability to a sovereign, independent and democratic Iraq as quickly as possible."
The draft approved Wednesday has been amended numerous times. But after the vote, an obviously pleased U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte noted that its underlying principles have remained intact.
"We believe this text fundamentally maintains the structure of the resolution we tabled [put forward] at the beginning of September," he said.
The resolution gives U.N. authority to the U.S.-led multi-national force in Iraq, and maintains Washington's vision of handing over sovereignty to Iraqis only after a stable government is in place.
The Council's unanimity gives a big lift to U.S. efforts to win pledges of funding and troops at an international donors conference on Iraq next week in Madrid.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who lobbied intensively for the resolution in the days before the vote, said the outcome would encourage maximum participation and contribution.
"It certainly does assist … as we now go around and ask people to be generous, as the United States plans to be generous," he commented
Even with a unanimous resolution in hand, however, U.S. and British diplomats say winning financial and troop support will be a challenge. France, Russia and Germany have ruled out any military commitment, and other countries are also showing reluctance to augment the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
The United States will also continue to shoulder the largest share of the financial burden. Officials say the drive to raise $55 billion to assist in Iraq's political and economic development appears to be far behind target.