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UN Debate Begins On New Iraq Resolution

UN Security Council (file photo) 24 May 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The UN Security Council has begun talks on a resolution aimed at restoring sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government and permitting multinational forces to remain in the country for at least one year.

The United States and Britain introduced the draft resolution to the council today. Britain's UN ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, told reporters the sponsors hoped the resolution would end uncertainty about the 30 June sovereignty transfer.

"All sovereignty will be returned to the Iraqis, the interim Iraqi government will assume total responsibility for its own sovereignty; and secondly, [the resolution proposes] that there will be a multinational force, but that multinational force will operate with the consent, in consultation, and in partnership, with the Iraqi government," Jones Parry said.

The U.S.-led coalition will maintain about 130,000 soldiers in Iraq to provide security and train Iraqi police and military units. There has been concern that the presence of the force will prolong an appearance of foreign occupation, but U.S. and U.K. officials stress the force would consult closely with interim Iraqi leaders.

The draft resolution says the multinational force will come under review in one year or sooner if the new Iraqi government wants to review its mandate.

Diplomats heading into today's meeting of the council had some positive initial comments about the draft resolution.
"I think it is important that the resolution will make clear that we have a new start in Iraq." -- Germany's UN Ambassador Gunter Pleuger

Germany's UN ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, whose country opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, said the draft provided a good basis for discussion.

"I think it is important that the resolution will make clear that we have a new start in Iraq, a political process, restoration of sovereignty to Iraq, and we will have to make sure that this process provides Iraqi ownership for the political process as well as the process for economic reconstruction," Pleuger said.

The resolution would also hand over oil revenues, the main generator of funds, to a new Iraqi interim government. But it says the international advisory and monitoring board, to include an Iraqi representative, would continue to audit spending of oil proceeds.

Chief UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is in Iraq consulting with a range of Iraqi parties about the composition of a caretaker government. Brahimi and U.S. officials are to eventually choose the president, vice president, and prime minister.

Pakistan's UN ambassador, Munir Akram, said the resolution cannot be adopted until Brahimi reports on his political talks. Akram said there appears to be agreement on the question of Iraqi control of resources.

"From the discussions we've had it seems to me that there is a consensus that the Iraqi government - a sovereign Iraqi government -- would have full control over its own resources," Akram said.

The resolution calls for convening a national conference that would select a consultative council advising the interim government. It calls for holding direct elections by year's end if possible or no later than the end of January.

It says that the United Nations, circumstances permitting, will help interim authorities in developing civil and social services, reconstruction, and humanitarian assistance.

But acknowledging ongoing security concerns, the resolution appeals to UN members to contribute to a protection force assigned solely to safeguard UN personnel.

Chile's UN ambassador, Heraldo Munoz, said there were still small differences remaining among council members but that he expected them to be resolved.

Most important, Munoz said, was for the resolution to provide clear guidance on Iraqi sovereignty: "That has to very clearly be spelled out in the resolution so that no one has a doubt that on 30 June a new government begins the whole sovereignty and that, I think, is a consensus among members of the security council."

The resolution addresses the final transfer of authority for the oil-for-food program to Iraqi officials but does not deal with the status of the UN weapons inspectorate, known as UNMOVIC.