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Powell Leads US Diplomatic Effort to get New Iraq Resolution Through UN - 2003-10-03

Secretary of State Colin Powell, leading U.S. diplomatic efforts to get a new Iraq resolution through the U.N. Security Council, says he is "anxious" to hear specific suggestions on how the current U.S. draft can be improved.

The U.S. draft, presented earlier this week, has come under criticism from France, Russia and some other council members for not providing for a rapid enough transition of power from the U.S.-led coalition to a new Iraqi government.

In a talk with reporters after a meeting with Hungary's foreign minister, Laszlo Kovacs, Mr. Powell said he had discussed the resolution by telephone since Thursday with the foreign ministers of several Security Council member countries, including his French counterpart, Dominque de Villepin.

Mr. Powell said the Bush administration is "anxious" to hear specific suggestions, with the aim of maximizing support for the resolution when it comes to a vote in the council. But at the same time, he said, the United States will not be pressed into a premature handover of authority.

"We all have the same goal - turn it over as quickly as possible," said Mr. Powell. "But we believe we have an obligation to turn it over to a responsible government that is able to handle that responsibility, and not just turn it over because two or three months have passed, and we are anxious to remove the burden from ourselves."

Both France and Russia want a new Iraqi government set up more quickly than called for in the scenario advanced by the United States. Washington maintains that a handover of authority should follow the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution and elections - a process that could take more than a year.

Mr. Powell also discussed the draft Friday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has said that the early formation of a new government in Baghdad could help stem attacks against the U.S.-led coalition.

The U.S. resolution would give the United Nations a bigger role in Iraqi peacekeeping and the political transition, and urge U.N. members to contribute to the country's reconstruction.

U.S. officials hope the measure can be enacted before the international donors conference on Iraq, opening in Madrid October 23.