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Bush administration acts to share control over Iraq

Thursday, September 4, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Shifting tactics and reaching out for help, the Bush administration offered on Wednesday to share with the United Nations the long-dominant U.S. role in Iraq's postwar reconstruction.

Secretary of State Colin Powell described the effort as "essentially putting the Security Council in the game," and European governments reacted favorably to the revised U.S. approach.

A new U.N. resolution proposed by the United States recognizes "that international support for restoration of conditions of stability and security is essential to the well-being of the people of Iraq."

France, which led opposition to the war on Iraq, said the new resolution should ensure that political power will be transferred quickly to an internationally recognized Iraqi government to help restore peace.

"The question is how to win the peace -- and how to have the situation stabilized," France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said in New York. "So we will see the resolution with this in mind."

Under the resolution, American commanders would remain in charge of peacekeeping operations in Iraq, but there, too, "we are asking the international community to join us even more than they have in the past," Powell said.

In turning to the United Nations, the administration was modifying its strategy for postwar Iraq.

But Powell said a U.N. resolution "is all part of the president's strategy of making sure that this is an international operation."

The resolution may be ready for submission to the Security Council next week, he said as he telephoned foreign ministers. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte circulated a draft to other U.N. ambassadors in New York, and Powell said initial reactions were positive.

The canvassing was described by Powell as aggressive.

Troops and money

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on his way to the Mideast, said countries that donate troops and money in Iraq would have a voice in both civil and military operations there.

"To the extent countries step up with troops and support and money, they have a seat at the table," Rumsfeld said. "They have the opportunity to work with us and the Iraqis."

In Brussels, Belgium, meanwhile, the United States and other donors pushed ahead with plans to channel billions of dollars in reconstruction aid to Iraq through an international fund independent of the U.S.-led administration in Baghdad.

In Iraq, the United States handed military control over a large belt of Iraq south of Baghdad to a Polish commander. Powell said the rest of the area, around Najaf where a prominent Muslim cleric was killed last week in a bombing, will be turned over "once things settle down a little bit."

The Polish military is leading the international force of about 9,500 that includes troops from 21 countries.

The new U.S. resolution, a draft of which was obtained by The Associated Press, would:

-- Transform the U.S.-led coalition force into a U.N.-authorized multinational one under a unified command to help maintain "security and stability in Iraq" and urge the 191 U.N.-member states to contribute troops.

-- Call on U.N.-member states to help train and equip an Iraqi police force.

-- Invite the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to cooperate with the United Nations and U.S. officials in Baghdad to produce "a timetable and program for the drafting of a new constitution for Iraq and for the holding of democratic elections."

-- Ask the U.N. representative in Iraq to facilitate a "national dialogue and consensus building" to promote the political transition and help organize elections.

-- Ask all U.N.-member states and regional and international organizations to "accelerate the provision of substantial financial contributions" for Iraq's reconstruction.

-- Endorse the Iraqi Governing Council "as the principal body of the Iraqi interim administration" and back its efforts "to mobilize the people of Iraq."

-- Call on countries in the region "to prevent the transit of terrorists, arms for terrorists, and financing that would support terrorists."

The administration has been under pressure from European and other governments, as well as from members of Congress, to share responsibility on Iraq. The pressure has increased as U.S. casualties have mounted.

Powell said the decision to seek a U.N. resolution was not related to casualties. "It is related to the evolutionary process that we have always had in mind to eventually restoring sovereignty back to the Iraqi people," he said.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who had adamantly opposed the U.S.-led war to depose President Saddam Hussein, stressed "the necessity of giving the United Nations a significantly greater role in the political process in Iraq."

The British Foreign Office said Britain had always seen the United Nations as playing a vital role in Iraq.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "We should be willing to agree to a reasonable sharing of decision-making with respect to the physical and political reconstruction of Iraq."

By contrast, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was skeptical of "this notion on the part of some of my colleagues that all we need to do is to get greater international support, including the U.N."

Powell said one of the two key goals of the resolution was to invite the Iraqi governing council to submit a program and timetable for political evolution with a constitution and free elections.

The second goal, Powell said, was to have the Security Council authorize a multinational force to which other nations might contribute troops.

U.N. authorization is perceived by the administration as a way to induce India, Pakistan, Turkey, Bangladesh and other countries to send troops.

Some nations, such as India, "felt like they needed additional authority from the U.N. to be able to participate," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.


Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.


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