The U.S. and British ambassadors to the United Nations are urging the world body to quickly take on a more prominent role in Iraq. But, the envoys brushed aside calls for an updated Security Council resolution.

Washington's U.N. ambassador, John Negroponte, Tuesday suggested Iraq's transition to democracy may be more difficult than many experts imagine. In remarks to the Security Council, Mr. Negroponte said greater U.N. involvement is needed to help move the process along.

"Between now and June 30, there is much to be done," he said. "We welcome the active engagement of the United Nations in helping the Iraqis define their own future and transition to a democratic, pluralistic society."

Speaking to reporters afterward, Ambassador Negroponte was skeptical of a U.N. team's assessment that Iraqi elections could be held as early as the end of this year.

"You saw the secretary general's recommendations were to the effect that if the ball got rolling now, elections could be held by end of this year or sometime early next year, but that is going to require further discussion and analysis to determine if all things stipulated in the report can actually be met," he said.

The ambassador noted that Iraqi and Coalition officials are struggling to draft a transitional administrative law ahead of the February 28 deadline for its completion. He said the deadline may have to be pushed back, further slowing the transition process.

France and Germany, vocal opponents of the invasion of Iraq last year, both issued strong statements of support Tuesday for an immediate and robust U.N. return. French Ambassador Jean Marc de La Sabliere echoed Secretary General Kofi Annan's earlier suggestion that an updated Security Council mandate might be needed.

But British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry joined Ambassador Negroponte in saying they see no immediate need for a new resolution. "Colleagues were looking forward to increased United Nations role, and we very much welcome that. But there's enough basis in the existing Security Council resolutions in this report to permit that role to unfold," he said.

Ambassador Jones-Parry noted solid progress by Coalition forces in restoring health care, water and sanitation services to Iraqis in the post-war period. He also pointed to improvements in the creation of jobs, in the role of women in Iraqi society, and in reforming the Iraqi judiciary.

In his report to the Security Council Monday, Secretary General Annan committed the world body to a greater role in completing Iraq's recovery process. But he declined to give any timetable, saying security remains a primary concern. He noted that the U.S. and British-led coalition would be charged with providing security arrangements, even after a transitional government takes power.