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Britain's Straw Optimistic on Security Council Iraq Resolution - 2004-06-07

Britain's foreign secretary predicted Monday that the United Nations Security Council will soon pass a new resolution outlining the role of the Iraqi interim government that will take power in the country on July 1. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also told members of parliament that security will remain the largest problem facing the country after that date.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the foreign secretary characterized the discussions among Security Council members over the past few weeks as constructive, and he hopes an agreement could emerge very soon.

He said the specific wording, acceptable to all, is getting closer. "Key elements of the resolution affirm the full sovereignty of the interim government and give the United Nations a lead role in support of the political process," he said. "The mandate of the multi-national force is dealt with both within the text of the resolution and in an exchange of letters to the president of the Security Council from the prime minister of Iraq, on the one hand, and the United States' Secretary of State Colin Powell, on the other, on behalf of the multi-national force."

The Foreign Secretary stressed that the largest problem in Iraq will remain security. While he noted that growing numbers of Iraqis are joining the security forces, he said the multi-national troops will have to continue to play a vital role for the foreseeable future.

"The biggest challenge which the new government of Iraq will face is to build security," said Mr. Straw. "There will be those who will continue to seek to disrupt the transition to successful democracy in Iraq and to force decisions by the bomb and not by the ballot box. But the Iraqi government is firmly resolved to defeat the men of violence and we are resolved to help them to do so."

Mr. Straw was asked if the Iraqis would have so-called veto power over the use of force by the multi-national troops.

"The Iraqi interim government as well as the transitional government after the 31 of January has an absolute right both to call for a revision of the terms under which the multi-national force operate and a right to call for their withdrawal," he said. "And I think, taken together, these will be adequate protection to ensure that the Iraqis are fully involved in this partnership but that commanders on the ground from the multi-national force have proper operational control when they are involved in an operation."

The foreign secretary refused to rule out the possibility that more British forces would be going to Iraq. There has been widespread speculation in the British press that Britain may soon deploy as many as 3,000 additional troops to the country.