As the June 30th date for returning sovereignty to Iraq approaches, the United States and Britain have gone to the United Nations with a draft Security Council resolution seeking the world body's support for the power transfer process as the sponsors define it.
The draft resolution wants the United Nations to endorse and assist the so- called sovereign interim Iraqi government that will run the country until elections are held no later than the end of January 2005. The resolution also seeks U.N. support for the continued presence in Iraq of the military coalition led by the United States. It goes on to ask other U.N. member countries to contribute unspecified resources and assistance to support that military force. The resolution also calls on U.N. members to assist in Iraq's economic reconstruction, including debt reduction.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, who is soon to become the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, says the United Nations should accept the draft resolution as it was submitted. He told the world body "We think it's a good resolution," adding "We don't think it's a resolution that needs to be rewritten."
But four Security Council nations - permanent members Russia, China, and France, along with a rotating member, Germany say they cannot accept the resolution in its present form. Gerald Baars, New York bureau chief for Germany's ARD television and radio, spells out their main objections. He told VOA "The first thing is what are the aims of the interim government in Iraq? Second is the relationship between the interim government and the multinational force led by the U.S. command." Mr. Baars continued "Thirdly, there is no time limit for the multinational force."
The United States and Britain say that interim government's role and responsibilities are clearly spelled out in the law that sets it up. That law also says Iraq's military will be a partner in the multinational force. Jean Louis Turlin, who covers the United Nations for the Paris newspaper Le Figaro, says France and other countries want Iraq's armed forces to be more independent. He says the French government believes "Iraqis should not be forced to obey American command," adding "The Iraqi government should be able to decide whether or not its own forces are going to take part in whatever is decided by the command of the multinational force."
Itar-Tass U.N. Correspondent Vladimir Kikilo says that so long as foreign troops are in Iraq, it may not be seen as truly sovereign. He observes "Everybody is concerned that after June 30th, there would still be the appearance that the occupation continues. That's why some members of the Security Council are so sensitive on this issue."
Washington contends that until Iraq's own military is ready to assume full responsibilities, a firm departure date for the multinational force cannot be set.
Along with sorting out these issues, Al-Hayat diplomatic correspondent Raghita Dirgham says the Security Council awaits the names of top interim Iraqi officials to be submitted by a U.N. special envoy. She told VOA "They are not going to adopt this resolution until Lakhdar Brahimi comes back to New York (and) makes his report." She continues "Hopefully, that report would say we have an interim government in place."
Two top officials, the Prime Minister and the President, have already been named. Iraq's Governing Council selected Iyad Allawi, a Shi'a Muslim, as Prime Minister with the endorsement of U.N envoy Brahimi. Iraqi Governing Council head and Sunni Muslim Ghazi al-Yawar has been chosen for the largely ceremonial post of president, after elder statesman Adnan Pachachi turned down the nomination.
London Telegraph newspaper Diplomatic Correspondent Anton LaGuardia says the United States and Britain want the U.N. resolution resolved quickly to avoid having its issues become political fodder outside of the United Nations. Mr. LaGuardia says "They're hoping to do it by June the 6th, because that is when a series of summits begin - the G-8 summit, the U.S. - E.U. summit, the NATO summit." He believes "If the text goes to those summits, leaders take responsibility for negotiating every phrase and comma."
Until the U.N. resolution is ready for a final vote, much discussion will take place. The strong positions taken by France, Russia, Germany, and China make compromise over the resolution's original wording highly probable. Despite these disagreements, however, Security Council members say the goal shared by all is a viable, democratic Iraq.