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UN: Amid Skepticism, Security Council Takes Up New Resolution On Stabilizing Iraq

  • Robert McMahon

A new U.S. draft resolution on Iraq has been received warily by members of the United Nations Security Council. The measure calls for strengthening the UN role in Iraq but stops short of giving it independence in overseeing Iraqs political transition, as some council members want. U.S. officials have stressed that they are eager to transfer authority quickly to Iraqi bodies, but say that full sovereignty can only follow the drafting of a constitution and elections.

United Nations, 3 October 2003 (RFE/RL) The latest U.S. proposal to internationalize the effort to transform Iraq has aroused some early skepticism from Security Council members about the U.S. willingness to share power.

The initial response at UN headquarters on 2 October to the new U.S. draft resolution reflected concern about the scope of the UNs role in guiding Iraq to sovereignty.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters the U.S. draft does not address some of his chief concerns. Annan has appealed for quickly setting up an interim Iraqi government to assume power. He said this would dispel the sense of occupation many Iraqis feel and likely cause resistance to decline. France, Germany, and Russia also support this.

UN international staff has been drawn down to about 30 in the aftermath of the August attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad and continuing security problems. Nearly 4,000 Iraqi nationals still work for the UN in the country.

Ambassador Sergei Lavrov emphasized Russias support for a chief UN role in the transition process. "At this stage we should give the United Nations the leading role in the political process, to work with all Iraqis, to develop a timetable which should be clear, which would be leading to the full restoration of sovereignty [and that] could be supported by a multinational force," he said.

The new resolution aims to convert the military operation into a UN -authorized multinational force under U.S. command. Nations that have so far been reluctant to commit soldiers to an occupation force would be expected to gain more domestic support for contributing to a UN-endorsed effort. U.S.-led forces are subject to daily attacks, which commanders have warned are becoming increasingly effective.

The United States hopes countries with respected peacekeeping forces, especially Muslim states like Pakistan, commit troops to the effort in Iraq. Pakistans UN Ambassador Munir Akram told reporters it will be important that a new resolution create legitimate conditions for Pakistan to participate. "We have to see that we will be welcome by the Iraqi people," Akram said. "We would not wish to be seen as an extension of an occupation force and we would hope that there would be a concurrence among all the states of the region to whatever we do."

Mexicos ambassador also stressed the need for a central UN role and said the resolution did not appear to reflect that. A senior cleric from Iraqs majority Shi'a Muslims, Ayatollah Muhammad Husayn al-Sistani, has called for a constitution to be written only by delegates elected by the people.

But a British diplomat said most council members in the 2 October closed-door talks favored a phased-in handover of authority to Iraqi bodies appointed by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, as stressed in the new draft. The diplomat said, "The idea of creating a facade before you build a building I dont think has much appeal to most members of the [Security] Council."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news conference in Washington that attempts to rush the power transfer in Iraq could have disastrous consequences. He said the U.S.-led coalition needs to remain in control to oversee an orderly transition process. "This isn't an effort on our part to hang on for as long as we can," Powell said. "We want to move this process along as quickly as possible, but I think it's a bit naive to suggest that any time in the next couple of weeks or months we can simply say, 'Here are 25 people, they seem to be getting along, let's give them responsibility for the country.'"

Diplomats at the UN said there is likely to be a detailed discussion about clarifying the interaction among the United Nations, the coalition, and the Iraqi authorities. The U.S. draft calls for a "strengthened" UN role in Iraq. It cites a UN report in July that outlined numerous nation-building functions the UN could assist, such as police training, judicial reform and contributing to the electoral and constitutional processes.

The U,.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, said a close reading of the new resolution will show it provides for an enhanced UN role. "We've incorporated into the revised text language that details an expanded and explicit role for the United Nations, especially in the political transition process," Negroponte said.

A representative of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ahmad Chalabi, addressed the UN General Assembly in its final high-level session on 2 October. He did not discuss specifics related to the Security Council resolution, appealing instead for international support in his countrys reconstruction. He reiterated the call in remarks made to journalists after his address: "We are here today to declare that a new Iraq is born. An Iraq where dignity, justice and human rights are assured for all citizens. An Iraq at peace with its people, its neighbors and the world."

The next formal Security Council consultations on the new draft resolution are set for Monday (6 October) and there are certain to be informal discussions before then. The United States would like to see a resolution in place in advance of the international donors conference for Iraq, to be held in three weeks (23-24 October) in Madrid. The estimated cost of reconstructing Iraq during the next four years is $56 billion.

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