France, Russia and Germany urge U.S. to set timetable to hand o
UNITED NATIONS -- France, Russia and Germany urged the United States on Tuesday to add a timetable for the transfer of power to Iraqis to its new U.N. resolution, but Washington called for a quick vote and a U.S. official cautioned against major changes.
In an apparent effort to reach a compromise on the draft Washington circulated Monday, the three countries dropped their demand for a handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi provisional government within months.
Instead, their proposed amendments to the U.S. draft would give Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council a role in establishing the timetable, along with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council.
The three countries submitted the amendments at the first council meeting to discuss the revised resolution following a meeting among French President Jacques Chirac, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, diplomats said.
Chances for passage
During Tuesday's closed-door discussion, diplomats said it was clear that if the Bush administration accepted the amendments, the United States would get the support of 14 of the 15 Security Council members, with only Syria's vote in doubt.
If the United States makes no changes, the resolution is likely to get just the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Many council members are concerned at the mixed message the United Nations' most powerful body would send if the resolution is only approved by a slim margin, but no nation threatened a veto.
Annan said he hopes the United States will work "to get as broad support as possible because I have always maintained that the council is at its best and has the greatest impact when it is united."
The United States wants speedy council action on the resolution, which is co-sponsored by Britain, Spain and Cameroon.
"We have asked members of the Security Council to be ready to vote from 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday on," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.
Washington has pressed for a vote ahead of a major donors' conference for Iraq in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 23 to 24, and the U.S. draft urges the 191 U.N. member states to make "substantial pledges."
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was highly doubtful Washington would agree to any major changes.
But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the resolution wasn't a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.
Over the last four days, Secretary of State Colin Powell has talked with the foreign ministers of more than half the council nations, as well as with Annan.
"We think we are making good progress toward adoption of this resolution," Boucher said. If council members "have further changes that support the resolution and its intent, it may be possible to take some of those into account."
The Germans, Russians, French and Chinese called the third revision of the U.S. resolution an improvement over previous drafts but said it still fell short.
"We appreciate the improvements introduced in the resolution structurally and substance-wise, and we think that it is moving in the right direction," said Russia's U.N. ambassador, Sergey Lavrov. But "some of the elements, which are crucial ... are not very clear ... and some of them are slightly ambiguous."
The U.S. draft calls on the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority "to return governing responsibilities and authorities to the people of Iraq as soon as practicable."
The Russian-French-German amendments would call on the authority "in consultation with the Governing Council and the secretary-general, to develop a specific schedule for this purpose and submit it to the council."
The date for the submission was left blank and would be determined by the resolution's sponsors and the Security Council. The three countries also want a date added for the Governing Council to convene a constitutional conference.
The U.S. draft calls on the Governing Council to provide the Security Council by Dec. 15, in cooperation with U.S. authorities, with a timetable for drafting a new constitution and holding democratic elections.
Another amendment proposed by the three countries urges the Governing Council to submit the timetable to the Security Council "for its consideration," a move that would give the United Nations a role in determining, for example, whether it should be speeded up.
Bush's main aim in seeking a new resolution is to get more countries to contribute troops and money to stabilize and rebuild Iraq. The resolution would authorize a multinational force -- sought by some potential troop-contributing nations -- led by the United States.
The latest draft would have the Security Council review "the requirements and the mission of the multinational force" within a year.
The Russian-French-German amendments would end the force's mandate "on the day the council receives a report from the secretary-general that an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq was sworn in."