The U.N. Security Council has unanimously agreed to extend the mandate of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq through the end of 2006. The one-year extension was approved early to avoid any conflict with Iraq's December 15 elections.

The resolution gives the U.S.-led multi-national force legal authority to remain in Iraq for a one-year period beginning next January 1.

Co-sponsors the United States, Britain, Japan, Denmark, and Romania asked for approval nearly two months before the current mandate expires at the end of this year. Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emir Jones-Parry says early adoption removes what could have been an issue in Iraq's national elections.

"All the time, the military deployment would have been uncertain," he said. "The one thing you need is political and military certainty. The political certainty has been afforded by a government that says we want you to continue. The military certainty is, but now the continued deployment and the rotation of troops, all that can take place in a perfectly normal way. And that is why we have done it now."

Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie thanked the Security Council for its prompt action. Afterward, he told reporters the unanimous decision would help to avoid a failure that he said would be too awful to contemplate, and would be a threat both to regional and international peace.

"The Iraqi government wanted continuation of the multinational force in order to complete political transition, and this it will do," he said. "We will do that through elections. The political process is moving forward. We will succeed and defeat terrorists in Iraq and build a new country."

After the unanimous vote, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton expressed satisfaction that Iraqis were continuing to demonstrate what he called 'the courage we have seen throughout the transition process'. He called the vote a significant signal of the international commitment to Iraq's democratic transition, but appealed for more help from Iraq's Arab neighbors.

"We urge the international community, especially the Arab world, to come forward and support Iraqi people," he said. "That support comes in many forms - participation in the coalition, contributions to Iraq's humanitarian and reconstruction activities, increased diplomatic engagement, and compliance with relevant resolution. Support is critical at this time."

The resolution calls for a Security Council review of the multi-national force mandate after six months. Diplomats say that review was part of compromise language asked for by France and Russia, which had originally favored extending the mandate by only six months.

The multi-national force is made up of around 160,000 U.S. troops, and some 22,000 troops from 26 other members of the coalition.