U.S. pushes resolution for Iraq to set timetable for elections

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States pressed for a new Iraq resolution Monday with a draft that gives Iraq's Governing Council until Dec. 15 to submit a timetable for holding elections and writing a new constitution. Early reaction to the draft, obtained by The Associated Press, was mixed.

U.S. diplomats had resisted including deadlines into earlier drafts of the resolution but faced stiff opposition from fellow U.N. Security Council members including France and Germany, who want a more concrete plan on restoring Iraq's sovereignty.

The United States, which holds the council's rotating presidency for October, circulated the draft informally over the weekend. U.S. ambassador John Negroponte said Washington would seek a vote on the resolution this week.

According to the draft, co-sponsored by Britain and Spain, the Governing Council must submit to the Security Council by Dec. 15 "a timetable and a program for the drafting of a new constitution for Iraq and for the holding of democratic elections under the constitution."

Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer called the draft "a step in the right direction," while France's Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said more analysis was needed of the changes, which essentially call for a timetable to come up with a timetable.

The spokesman for Russia's U.N. mission, Sergey Trepelkov, said Moscow still wanted some changes, including an exact timetable and a "crucial, central role" for the United Nations.

The draft is the latest version of a resolution seeking international troops and money to help the U.S.-led effort to rebuild Iraq, and appeared after a week of back-and-forth with other nations of the 15-member council.

The United States and Britain have said Iraq must first have a constitution and hold elections before they relinquish sovereignty. France, Germany and Russia are seeking a quick transfer of power to a provisional Iraqi government and want the United Nations to get the major role in overseeing the country's political transition to a democracy.

The draft had appeared headed toward passage two weeks ago until Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nations wanted a central role in Iraq's political future or little role at all because the risk was too great to U.N staff otherwise. That pushed the United States to turn to other council members for new suggestions on the draft, which it took back to Washington last week.

The draft does not give Annan what he wants, leaving unchanged language that says the United Nations "should strengthen its vital role in Iraq."

The draft does, however, say Iraq's Governing Council should work with the U.N. special representative to Iraq as well as the U.S.-led occupation in coming up with its plans before the Dec. 15 deadline.

It also beefs up language recognizing the Governing Council and its U.S.-appointed ministers as the "principal bodies of the Iraqi interim administration, which will embody the sovereignty of the state of Iraq during the transitional period."

A U.S. State Department official said Secretary of State Colin Powell spent the weekend working the phones, and spoke with Annan and eight other members of the Security Council. The official described the reaction as positive.

President Bush refused on Monday to put a timetable on the U.S. military occupation of Iraq.

"The definition of when we get out is when there is a free and peaceful Iraq based upon a constitution and elections, and obviously we'd like that to happen as quickly as possible.

"But we are mindful of rushing the process which would create the conditions for failure," he said.

As before, the draft calls for the creation of a multinational force to help maintain security in Iraq. But unlike previous versions, it says the Security Council will review the force's mission no later than a year after the resolution passes.

The draft shuffles several paragraphs, raising reference to Iraq's sovereignty and Iraqis' right to determine their own political future. It underscores that the U.S.-led occupation is only temporary.

Another council diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the draft would be formally submitted either late Monday or Tuesday.

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