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US Begins Talks on New UN Resolution for Iraq Security - 2003-09-03

The United States has begun discussions at the United Nations on a draft resolution that would authorize an expanded multinational force for Iraq. The proposal would also continue to keep peace keepers under American command. The draft would also chart a course for the first free elections in the post Saddam Hussein era.

In a change of policy on Iraq, the Bush administration has decided to go back to the United Nations and seek a resolution that would provide Security Council backing for an expanded multinational Iraqi peace keeping force. It's something countries that have been willing to contribute troops to the U.S.-led coalition have been demanding in exchange for sending forces.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said initial talks he's held with other Security Council members have been positive even though the Bush administration is insisting any expanded military mission in Iraq, even if put under the U.N. flag, remain under the command of an American general. "I don't know of any of my Security Council colleagues who said we want to be the military commander, quite the contrary," he said. "Nor has anybody in the senior leadership of the U.N. said they wish to become the military commander."

Not only would this proposed resolution shift some of the military burden to the United Nations, it would also begin to outline Iraq's transition to a constitutional democracy. "A plan, a program and a timetable for its political evolution through the writing of a constitution, putting in place the necessary institutions of government and the conduct of free elections so they can determine how they will be led in the future," he said.

Analysts like Joseph Siegle at the Council on Foreign Relations see the move as intended to reduce the profile of the United States in Iraq's post war reconstruction at a time when American peace keepers continue to be attacked or killed nearly every day. "Currently, the perception that this is a U.S. dominated affair is harming their effort to stabilize the country and to convince Iraqis that the U.S. is not there simply to occupy the country indefinitely," he said.

The Bush administration denies the rising American casualty rate played any part in its decision to seek a larger United Nations role in reconstruction. But it comes amid growing calls in Congress, like this one from Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, for the president to spell out to Americans what he believes the overall costs will be, both in money and military commitment. "I think it's very important that he provide us with more answers than we have today with regard to his intentions, with regard to the overall commitment by this country on Iraq," he said. "If we are spending a billion dollars a week on Iraq today, how many more billions of dollars and how many more weeks will this continue?"

The Bush administration's decision to seek greater U.N. involvement in Iraq was announced on the same day that a new report from Congress warned the Pentagon lacks enough active duty troops to keep the current 140,000 American forces there beyond early next year without running into problems with deployments in other world hot spots.