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Iraq: UN Seeks to Narrow Divide Over Post-Transfer Security

UN Security Council members are divided along familiar lines on a resolution that would endorse the restoration of full sovereignty to Iraq. China, Russia, France, and Germany are seeking language that would assert greater Iraqi control over decision making on security matters and set a deadline for the withdrawal of the U.S.-led multinational force. Security Council members say no decision on the resolution will be made until after they have a chance to consult with the as-yet-unnamed Iraqi interim government.

United Nations, 27 May 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Key members of the UN Security Council say they will seek changes in the draft resolution proposed by the United States and Britain to strengthen Iraqi sovereignty.

Security Council ambassadors met yesterday at UN headquarters to continue discussions on the resolution introduced earlier this week. They said much work remains to find consensus on the issue of clarifying relations between the U.S.-led multinational force and the interim government that will take over on 1 July.

The ambassadors of France and Germany, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere and Guenter Pleuger, told reporters there is widespread understanding about the need for an effective chain of command for the force. But de La Sabliere said references in the resolution to a "partnership" between the Iraqi and U.S.-led forces are insufficient.

"We know that there will be an agreement between the multinational force and the Iraqi government. This is not enough. We do think that it is important to have in the resolution some principles -- parameters -- which will guide whatever agreement will be passed between the multinational force and the government," de La Sabliere said.

A number of Security Council members stressed the need to avoid situations where Iraqi forces, under unified command, are ordered to engage in combat against their will.
U.S. and British leaders, meanwhile, have continued to downplay speculation of a split in their views over Iraqi sovereignty.

Pleuger said the resolution must spell out that Iraqi leaders have decision-making control over their forces. "It will be necessary to create a consultation and cooperation mechanism in which, on the one hand, it is made clear that the sovereignty of the Iraqi government also pertains to the security architecture," he said. "And secondly, that conflicts like we had already in Fallujah, where whole units of the Iraqi army deserted, are being avoided in the future."

China has circulated a proposal that would limit the multinational mandate until January 2005, when elections are due to be held. The U.S.-British draft resolution says the mandate would come under review after one year or at the request of the Iraqi government chosen in January.

China proposes placing the Iraqi army and police force -- which still require extensive training -- under the control of the caretaker government. China says the resolution should require the multinational force to "consult with the interim government in respect of military actions, except for self-defense."

Chinese UN Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters these issues can best be resolved after the naming of the interim government, expected within days. "The idea is that, first of all, there has to be an interim government," Wang said. "The names will be announced and would be agreeable to the Iraqis. Then, as far as the contents in the present draft, this has to be discussed with those guys who have been selected, because if they have been selected but you adopt a resolution [and] the contents [are not] acceptable to them, I think this is another problem."

U.S. and British leaders, meanwhile, have continued to downplay speculation of a split in their views over Iraqi sovereignty. They said statements from London and Washington spelling out command-and-control issues were complementary, not contradictory.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said earlier this week that Iraqis would have a veto over operations like the attacks on Al-Fallujah last month. But U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stressed that U.S. forces would stay under U.S. command.

The draft UN resolution would allow U.S.-led forces to "take all measures" to keep order and does not contain a clause allowing an Iraqi veto. British officials say such a veto would be included in an exchange of letters with the interim government and agreed before a UN vote. U.S. officials have repeatedly said that Washington intends the relationship with the new Iraqi government to be based on consent.

David Phillips is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who served as a U.S. State Department adviser on postwar Iraqi issues last year. He told RFE/RL it is more important for U.S. and Iraqi officials to define their relationship in the field, rather than in the Security Council. "I don't think you want to lock yourself in with a resolution that isn't based on reality, particularly given how volatile the situation is and how quickly changing the conditions are," he said. "Reality on the ground is going to dictate the security strategy, and that's something that can only succeed if Iraqis are involved."

Chief UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is due to present soon a list of recommendations of Iraqis willing to serve in the interim government. He issued a statement late yesterday reporting progress and saying he wants to announce the list shortly to give Iraqis time to consult on the Security Council resolution.

Brahimi confirmed he has met on a "number of occasions" with Iraqi nuclear scientist Husayn al-Shahristani, who had been mentioned as a leading candidate for prime minister. But he said al-Shahristani has made it clear he does not want to take the job as head of government.