The United States and Britain have circulated a revised draft of their Security Council resolution on Iraq. The latest draft has been changed to strengthen guarantees of Iraqi sovereignty.
This third draft given to members of the Security Council Friday adds several details to the previous drafts introduced over the past two weeks. It sets a firm date of December 31, 2005 for the end of the multinational force mandate in Iraq.
That is the date set for a constitutionally-elected Iraqi government to take power.
The latest draft specifies that the MNF mandate could be terminated earlier if requested by the interim government that takes power at the end of this month. The previous versions would have given that right only to the transitional government due to take power early next year.
The draft was handed out one day after Iraq's foreign minister told the Security Council full sovereignty will be a prime concern of Baghdad's incoming government. At the same time, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari rejected the idea of a fixed deadline for withdrawal of foreign troops.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Zebari said on the one hand, Iraq will need the U.N.-mandated troops for some time to come. On the other hand, he said, a sovereign Iraqi government must have a say in the future of those forces.
"We think we need that the Iraqi interim and Iraqi transitional government really should have a final say about final status of these forces," he said. "We need them. It's a hypothetical question. I think we're going to need these forces for quite some time, but as a sovereign government definitely you must have a say on, this will not be open ended til, until ever ?"
The latest draft makes several other changes meant to satisfy questions raised during Thursday's Security Council session. Among them is a new paragraph that calls for a re-examination of the mandates of the U.N. agencies charged with searching for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
That hunt is currently being done by U.S. inspectors, but has so far proved fruitless.
The latest draft resolution is to be discussed during a private Security Council retreat at an undisclosed location this weekend. Among those attending will be Special U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who will brief ambassadors on his recently completed mission to Iraq.
A senior U.S. diplomat said Friday he thinks the new draft should be enough to satisfy concerns voiced in the Security Council. He said U.S. and British sponsors are pushing for a vote on the measure sometime next week.