Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Spanish Foreign Minister Anna Palacio and held telephone talks with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other key officials Monday as he sought consensus on a draft Security Council resolution setting up a new U.N.-authorized multinational force for Iraq.
Mr. Powell made clear the Bush administration's draft resolution for Iraq is not being presented on a take-it-or-leave it basis, and that he is soliciting suggestions and ideas from other council members in a flurry of telephone contacts that included his Italian and French counterparts as well as European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana.
At a news appearance here with Spanish Foreign Minister Palacio, a key U.S. ally on Iraq, Mr. Powell said the United States is prepared to have the United Nations play an important role in Iraq's post-war recovery and political redevelopment, though he insisted the U.N. is not in a position to replace the U.S.-led coalition's Provisional Authority in Iraq altogether.
The secretary said there is no reason why the United Nations and U.S. administrator Paul Bremer cannot work together in helping the Iraqi Governing Council develop a plan for the country's political transition for submission to the U.N. Security Council. He also said the Bush administration sees itself as under no deadline pressure to get a new Iraq resolution through the council. "I think it's important to get a good resolution, one that enjoys, hopefully, unanimous support of the Security Council. We have a common goal: to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people as fast as is possible, as fast as it is practicable," he said. "And if we all keep our eyes on that common goal, it seems to me we should be able to get a resolution that will enjoy strong support and, hopefully, unanimous support. But we've set no artificial deadline on that process."
Ms. Palacio, for her part, said she was heartened by the discussion on Iraq at a weekend meeting of European Union foreign ministers at Italy's Lake Garda, and said she thinks Europe understands its interests and responsibilities in Iraq. "I think from this meeting at Lago de Garda, it came out very clearly that we have to face this responsibility of the international community, and we all are committed. The European Union has a very clear interest, if only because when Turkey is a member of the union, we will have a border with Iraq. So Spain once more reaffirms its commitment to the reconstruction and to the future of Iraq," she said.
Officials said Mr. Powell, who spoke by phone with U.N. Secretary-General Annan Monday afternoon, was considering a proposal by Mr. Annan to convene a meeting of foreign ministers of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries, Russia, China, Britain and France along with the United States, in Geneva next Saturday.
France, in particular, has been skeptical about the U.S. call for broader international involvement in Iraqi peacekeeping, with French officials saying they are awaiting evidence the Bush administration intends to actually give the United Nations a bigger role in Iraq, rather than just spreading out the risks and burdens of the rebuilding process.
The proposed Iraq resolution is also expected to dominate the agenda when Mr. Powell attends the opening of the new U.N. General Assembly in New York later in the month.