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Powell: US to Propose New UN Resolution on Iraq - 2004-04-23

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the United States will offer a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq as soon as U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi completes his plan for the interim Iraqi government that is to take power from the U.S.-led coalition July 1. The State Department meanwhile insisted the interim authority will be fully empowered to run Iraqi affairs.

Bush administration officials have not been precise about the wording of the new U.N. resolution. But they say its aims will be to reinforce the legitimacy of the interim government in Baghdad while providing a political basis for more countries to take part in peacekeeping operations.

In an interview Friday with the Dutch broadcaster RTL, Secretary of State Powell said U.S. officials are already at work on a draft and will present the document in the Security Council once Secretary-General Kofi Annan has approved a plan by special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for an interim Iraqi government.

The interim administration will take control July 1 and run the Iraqi affairs until elections in January for a national assembly that will write a constitution and lay groundwork for a permanent government.

Mr. Powell's interview with RTL was one of a series he gave Friday to media outlets in member countries of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, aimed at stemming defections following decisions by Spain, Honduran and the Dominican Republic this week to withdraw troops.

The Secretary told reporters from both the Netherlands and El Salvador that he hopes those countries will keep troops in Iraq past their current commitments ending June 30th.

He told the Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa he hopes there will be more troop contributors once there is a new U.N. resolution and "after sovereignty is returned to the Iraqi people."

The State Department, meanwhile, insisted that the interim government will have full authority to run Iraqi affairs despite the fact it will not have a legislative arm, and that U-S military commanders will continue to exercise final authority over both coalition and Iraqi security forces in the country.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the interim authorities will be "fully sovereign" even though they will have to operate under the transitional law approved by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council in March.

"The point is these people are fully sovereign. They're going to have the authority to run their government, have the authority to run Iraq, they're going to have the ability to run Iraq, and they'll be operating for an interim period to run Iraq - to run Iraq to the point where an election can be held, a constitution can be made and the absolute full structure of a future Iraqi government can be created," he said.

In Congressional testimony Wednesday, the State Department's third-ranking official, Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, said the Iraqi interim government would have "limited" sovereignty in that it would be operating under terms of the transitional law, and last October's U.N. Security Council Resolution 15-11.

Mr. Grossman also said the United States would not need to conclude a "status of forces" agreement with the interim Iraqi administration for U.S. forces to continue operating there after June 30.

Critics of the arrangement have questioned what would happen in the event of a policy conflict between the interim government and U.S. commanders, though Mr. Boucher said they will be working together in the interests of Iraqi security and that the idea of a confrontation is "far-fetched."