U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says a U.N. resolution endorsing the handover of sovereignty in Iraq could be approved in the next few days. And Iraq's newly named prime minister says nine militias have agreed to disband as part of an effort to curb insurgent violence.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice sounds upbeat about the prospects for quick approval of the U.N. resolution on Iraq, after intense weekend discussions at a Security Council retreat produced a fresh draft.
"I think it is fair to say the spirit moving forward is very good, that people are working very hard at it, and there is a general sense that this is going in a very positive direction, and should reach conclusion very soon," she said.
Security Council members have been debating how to define the relationship between the U.S.-led coalition forces and Iraq's interim administration, and who will have control over their operations.
Ms. Rice says an exchange of letters between the U.S.-led forces and Iraq's interim government sets the framework. "The security exchange of letters with the Iraqis certainly demonstrates that the multi-national coalition with the U.S. commander, of course, and the Iraqi government have an understanding how to go forward," said Ms. Rice. "And we believe that that understanding should now give comfort to all that the Iraqis will indeed have full sovereignty, that the Iraqis will have command of their own forces, that there will be mechanisms for the coordination and consultation, as well as for discussion of policy on sensitive offensive operations."
The U.S. ambassador at the United Nations says the letter would be attached to the resolution as an annex. But France wants such guarantees included in the resolution, not in attachments.
In Baghdad, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has announced that nine major political parties have agreed to disband their private militia. Mr. Allawi says the fighters could eventually join state or regional security forces. "We hope that this process ultimately will transpire to the adherence to the government of Iraq and to the unity of the country," said Mr. Allawi.
The agreement does not include the Mahdi militia of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has been battling U.S. forces for the past two months. Prime Minister Allawi says militia that do not agree to disband would be considered illegal.
In other news, an explosion ripped through the central mosque of the holy city of Kufa, where Moqtada al-Sadr often delivers his sermon during Friday prayers. Kufa and nearby Najaf have been the scene of clashes between the Mahdi militia and U.S. forces.
But the area had been quiet after an agreement was reached last Thursday to put Iraqi police in charge of security and move U.S. troops away from holy sites there.