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Key Security Council Members Call for Changes to UN Iraq Resolution - 2004-05-27

The U.N. Security Council is debating a draft resolution on Iraq, even as Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi puts together an interim government in Baghdad. At least four Council members are calling for significant revision of the U.S. and British-drafted measure.

In two hours of closed-door debate Wednesday, France, Russia, Germany and China were among those raising objections to parts of the resolution. Much of the debate focused on improving assurances that the interim government that takes over in Baghdad on June 30 will have full sovereignty.

One key element is how much authority Iraqi leaders would have over the the U.S. led multinational force, and how long the force would stay.

Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte, who has been confirmed as the envoy to Iraq effective July first, described the meeting as interesting. He defended the draft resolution as solid. "We've put down solid resolution in terms of its conveying sovereignty, defining the U.N. role and mandate of a multinational force as well as appealing to the international community to assist Iraq in various ways. We think it's a good resolution," he said. "We don't think this is a resolution that needs to be rewritten."

But several countries - led by China - are proposing changes in the draft that would set a deadline for the multinational force's withdrawal. German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said a firm pullout date would send Iraqis a signal that their new government has real sovereignty.

"We want to give the right political signal to the Iraqi people," says Mr. Pleuger. "And one of the important signals to make this resolution credible and implementable is that we tell the Iraqi people 'the presence of foreign troops on your soil is not forever' and therefore we think it is important, first of all, to limit the mandate to a clear cut point in time."

Half a world away, in Baghdad, U.N. special envoy Lakhdhar Brahimi is racing against the clock to put together an interim Iraqi government that will take power when the occupation ends June 30. He has said he hopes to announce the slate within days.

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablier said after Wednesday's debate that any resolution should be delayed at least two weeks to see how Iraqis react to Mr. Brahimi's proposal. He described the U.S. and British draft as 'not yet good', and said France will ask for stronger language to ensure Iraqi sovereignty.

"We should be very careful to avoid a discrepancy between what we state, and reality," said Mr. de la Sablier. "We are going to say there will be transfer of sovereignty, and we can write sovereignty in a resolution. But what is important is for the Iraqi people to perceive this as their government during this interim period of 7 months."

Security Council diplomats say more revisions of the draft resolution are likely after Mr. Brahimi announces his selections for the interim government. The announcement is expected by the end of the month.

The U.N. envoy will name a prime minister with broad powers, as well as a largely ceremonial president, two vice-presidents and 26 ministers. They would remain in office until after elections for a transitional government, probably next January.