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Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
U.S., Britain present proposal on Iraq to United Nations
By Maggie Farley and Mary Curtius
UNITED NATIONS The United States and Britain presented a draft resolution to the United Nations yesterday endorsing a sovereign Iraqi government and authorizing an initial one-year mandate for the U.S.-led force.
But several key Security Council members said the proposal does not make clear whether the new government would have full authority over Iraq's security and when foreign troops would leave. They said that raises the question of whether there will be a true handover of power June 30.
"We need to give more say to Iraqis, to strengthen their role and the role of the Security Council," said Ambassador Wang Guangya, of China. "There are many elements that need to be filled out, like the relationship between the interim government and the multinational force."
British and U.S. diplomats assured Security Council members that in the race against the June 30 deadline, it was necessary to start work on the areas they could and fill in the blanks before the handover.
The first blank to be filled in is who will be running the country on June 30. U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has been assigned the task of selecting a president, prime minister, two vice presidents and 26 ministers to run the country until elections can be held before the end of January 2005. He is expected to announce his choices by the end of this week.
In the meantime, the resolution seeks the Security Council's blessing for the yet-to-be named interim government to take power June 30. It gives the Iraqis control of their own affairs and resources, including oil revenues, and endorses the timetable for democratic elections by the end of the year "if possible, and in no case later than 31 January 2005."
The United States will not seek a vote on the resolution for a week or two, until Brahimi finishes his work on drawing up the interim government, a senior U.S. official said.
The measure confirms that the United States will continue to lead a multinational force, including a separate unit of about 2,000 troops to protect U.N. staff members working on human rights and helping to prepare elections. A senior U.S. official said yesterday that several countries that are not involved in Iraq are interested in providing troops for the U.N. brigade, though there are no new commitments yet.
The new government would take control of the country's oil and gas riches and the $10.2 billion Development Fund for Iraq, where oil and gas revenues and frozen assets have been deposited. It is now run by the occupying powers.
But security and who is ultimately responsible for it is a sticking point. The resolution sets no date for the troops to leave, although it calls for a review after 12 months, or earlier at the request of the elected government. France, Germany, China, Chile and Russia would like to have an earlier reassessment or to leave the force's mandate to the new Iraqi government to decide.
"We don't want just to play with words. If we say 'transfer of sovereignty,' it has to be a transfer of sovereignty," a French diplomat said.
Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham acknowledged "there is nothing in the resolution that says that anybody has the authority" to ask the foreign forces to withdraw. "But the United States has said that we will leave if there's a request from the government to leave," he said.
The relationship between the interim government and the U.S.-led multinational force is unclear and will be defined in a letter to the Security Council before the vote, Parry and Cunningham said.
The resolution does not say who would control Iraqi forces, whether they would have the ability to "opt out" of military operations and who would oversee Iraqi police and prisons.
The letter to the Security Council is expected to confirm that Iraqis would control their own military forces, police and prisons. U.S. officials also have said recently that the Iraqis should be able to stay out of some particularly sensitive military operations, an issue that also is expected to be addressed in the letter.
Other gray areas, including the interim government's ability to make laws and contracts, would be defined in a letter from the government-in-waiting after Brahimi announces its members, British and U.S. diplomats said. Brahimi has said the interim government should refrain from tying the hands of the elected government that will follow it.
Most diplomats said the resolution was more accommodating than they expected. U.S. and British diplomats held extensive consultations with Security Council members before introducing the text.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.
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