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Iraq: U.S. Seeks Security Council Endorsement Of Governing Council, UN Mission

  • Robert McMahon

United Nations Security Council members have begun discussing a U.S. proposal to formally endorse the Iraqi Governing Council and set up a new UN mission in Iraq. Diplomats say there could be agreement this week on a draft resolution containing the proposals. The resolution is seen as crucial for extending international legitimacy to the U.S.-appointed Iraqi council as well as acknowledging the growing UN role in Iraq.

United Nations, 13 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. officials are hoping for approval this week of a new Security Council resolution endorsing the month-old Iraqi Governing Council as an official representative body.

Representatives of the permanent five Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China -- began to discuss the U.S. proposal late yesterday. Those talks are expected to continue today.

Agreements among the permanent five members usually clear the way for consensus on the 15-member Security Council.

The U.S. proposal also calls for the formal establishment of a new UN mission, to be known as the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

A U.S. diplomat told RFE/RL yesterday that the resolution was limited to the two proposals, both of which he called "noncontroversial." He said the resolution would likely be approved this week.

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Yuri Fedotov, told Interfax news agency yesterday that Russia welcomes the Iraqi council as the "first step toward creating a truly representative and legitimate government in the country."

Fedotov's language echoes that of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has urged UN members to support the Iraqi council. Many Arab states, however, have so far refused, pointing to the U.S. role in selecting council members.

But an official UN endorsement of the Iraqi council would influence a number of member states, says Edward Luck, the director of the Center on International Organization at Columbia University.

Luck tells RFE/RL that a new resolution could provide crucial cover for countries that opposed the war.

"Because of all the controversies and because relatively few member states supported the military intervention, they need for their domestic publics this kind of extra legitimacy from the UN," he says. "But they also need it so they can say in the end that they're not doing it just at U.S. bidding, that they're not being pushed around by the U.S. but, in fact, they're doing it on behalf of the international community as a whole."

The Iraqi council has been given the power to appoint ministers and diplomatic representatives. It formed a committee of legal experts yesterday to look into selecting a constitutional assembly. It also yesterday gave permission for six international airlines to start flights to Al-Basrah's airport within the next few weeks.

The resolution under discussion would also provide Security Council backing for a new UN Assistance Mission for Iraq as outlined by Annan in a report last month.

Annan says the mission should have about 300 civilian staff, more than half of them Iraqis. It would take over humanitarian functions from the oil-for-food program, which is being phased out, as well as assist on issues ranging from human rights to governance.

Specifically, Annan envisions the United Nations assisting in areas such as judicial reform, police training, and demobilization of soldiers.

The resolution under discussion this week does not provide for the explicit expansion of UN authority in Iraq as called for by some countries. But UN spokesman Farhan Haq tells RFE/RL that it does address a growing UN role that needs a stronger basis within a UN mission.

"The UN role in Iraq has been growing in recent weeks," Haq said. "We sent an electoral assistance team there a little over a week ago. There's more work being done on human rights. The oil-for-food program is making preparations to close down its work by November, and so they're on the ground now to do some of the preparatory work for that handover of responsibilities. So, a number of things have been happening already."

The Security Council resolution that authorized the administration of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition -- resolution 1483 -- was seen by council members Germany and France as limited. They have called for more UN involvement on reconstruction issues and for donated funds to be administered through an independent entity.

A number of potential troop-contributing countries have said they cannot assist the coalition in peacekeeping without a broader UN mandate.

For now, UN special envoy in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello considers the language in resolution 1483 flexible enough to permit a significant UN role.

UN spokesman Haq says Vieira de Mello "has been comfortable with the amount of responsibilities he has under resolution 1483 and he's been able to work well with the Coalition Provisional Authority on the ground. In terms of a more expanded UN role beyond the authorization for the UN assistance mission, it doesn't look as if that's being discussed in the Security Council right now."

Within the U.S. foreign policy community, there has been a recognition that the United States needs more international assistance in Iraq.

The chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, said on 10 August that the U.S. government should seek new resolutions that provide greater international legitimacy to the reconstruction effort in post-Hussein Iraq.

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