Last minute negotiations at the U.N. Security Council have forced a brief delay of the vote on a U.S. sponsored draft resolution on Iraq. U.S. officials appear confident that a Council consensus is emerging.
As consultations on the draft dragged into the evening Wednesday, Russia, France and Germany asked that the vote be put off one day. The postponement will allow the leaders of the three countries to hold a telephone conference early Thursday to coordinate their positions.
The vote has been on-again, off-again while the United States seeks to win a consensus that would give it a strong mandate for its plan for rebuilding Iraq.
Ambassador John Negroponte said the delay is a sign that the negotiating process may be paying off.
There's been movement toward greater consensus on the basis of our text. Intense diplomatic activity has taken place as late as this afternoon. "The current draft of the resolution - which is the fourth draft submitted - appears certain of the nine votes needed for passage," he added. "But as negotiations have progressed over the past day, diplomats have begun to talk of the possibility of a near unanimous vote, something that would have seemed absurd a few days ago."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said regardless of the vote, passage of the resolution should be seen as a vote of confidence. "The achievement of this resolution is a major step forward in any case; that the resolution will provide for the international community, and for the Iraqis, a clear path forward on how they will take more and more control of their own affairs, on how the political horizon - how the political transition will work. And it will enable the United Nations, other governments, other military forces, to get involved in that process," he said.
The current draft before the Council incorporates several of the France, German and Russian amendments, but does not include any timetable for handing over full sovereignty to Iraqis.
Passage with a solid Security Council majority would allow the United States to make a strong case for asking other nations to provide troops and cash for Iraq. Washington plans to make that case at a donors conference next week in Madrid.