Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday he expects Security Council action "in the very near future" on a revised U.S.-sponsored resolution giving the United Nations a larger role in Iraqi peacekeeping and reconstruction. Administration officials meanwhile are claiming progress in preparations for an Iraq donors conference later this month in Madrid.
The secretary of state says the resolution, presented at the U.N. Wednesday, tries to be responsive to countries which have been pressing for the swift hand over of power to a sovereign Iraqi government.
But the revised draft contains no specific timetable for the transition, and Mr. Powell told reporters at Washington's Foreign Press Center it is a "bit naive" to suggest that full responsibilities can be given to the appointed Iraqi Governing Council in the next couple of months.
"We have to do it in a careful, responsible, way in order to make sure that we do not leave a failed state behind, that we leave a vibrant, thriving state," he said. "And that will take time, it will take a great deal of money, and it will take the continued presence of an organized authority, such as the Coalition Provisional Authority, with the military, economic, civilian and other assets that the coalition provisional authority has access to."
Mr. Powell said Iraq must have a constitutionally elected government before a transfer can occur, and he said as much as the United States would like to see this happen tomorrow, "it will take time."
"Ministries have to come up. Institutions have to be in place," he said. "A constitution has to be in place. Otherwise, what are you resting the nation on? To whom are you giving authority. And on what authority will they act, unless it's the authority contained in a constitution, and unless the people in charge of executing that constitution have a legitimacy of an election based on that constitution."
The draft resolution calls for a new U.N. multinational force in Iraq that would be under American command, and also provides for a broader U.N. role in the political transition.
It also urges U.N. members to contribute to Iraq's reconstruction, and U.S. officials hope it can be enacted before an international donor's conference for Iraq opens October 23 in Madrid.
A preparatory meeting for the conference ended Thursday in Madrid and senior Bush administration officials, in a telephone hook-up from Spain, told State Department reporters that 59 countries have agreed to take part.
The United Nations and World Bank estimate that Iraq will need $55 billion in reconstruction aid over the next four years - as much as $20 billion of which would be provided under the Bush administration's supplemental spending request to Congress for Iraq .
There have been press reports that the Madrid conference might only yield one or two billion dollars in pledges.
The senior U.S. officials declined to make forecasts but said they were optimistic, based on the preliminary meeting, that other countries understand the "security stake" in assuring a stable Iraq.
They said there was "no magic number" in dollar terms that would define success for the Madrid meeting. However, they it is important that Iraqis see evidence of the "depth and breadth" of the international commitment to the country's recovery.