A delegation headed by Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari is to arrive in New York on 2 June for talks on a Security Council resolution that would legitimize the political transition under way.
The United States and Britain on 1 June circulated a revised draft resolution that seeks to address concerns about whether the transfer of sovereignty on 30 June will be genuine.
U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday he expects the Security Council to act after consulting with Iraqis. He said he hopes the process begins soon. "We're working with all the parties, but you know how the United Nations is," he said. "Sometimes it can move slowly, and sometimes it can move quickly. And the quicker the better, as far as I'm concerned, because it sends a message to the new Iraqi government [that] the world stands with you."
The revised resolution appears to address key concerns of veto-wielding Security Council members China, France, and Russia about Iraqi control over security arrangements. For example, the new measure now spells out that Iraqi police and border units will come under control of the Iraqi Interior Ministry.
The revised draft specifies that the mandate of the U.S.-led multinational force will end upon completion of the political process that leads to democratic elections under a new constitution. That process is expected to culminate in December 2005.
The new draft adds explicit language that says the multinational force's mandate will end sooner if requested by the Iraqi transitional government due to be elected by the end of January 2005. The previous draft said only that the force mandate would be reviewed after a one-year period.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that the goal is the progressive transfer of responsibility for security in Iraq to Iraqi officials. He stressed that the resolution hands full sovereignty to Iraqis. "It is important that we get the United Nations Security Council resolution which endorses this process and makes it quite clear that the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi government is the transfer of full sovereignty, and that after 30 June the multinational forces remain there, but only with the consent of the Iraqi government," Blair said.
The resolution retains a clause stating that the multinational force shall have the authority to "take all necessary measures" to ensure security and stability in Iraq. A U.S. diplomat told reporters at UN headquarters that the clause was necessary to ensure the right of multinational forces to self-defense. The diplomat said, "What that says is that we are going to have to protect ourselves."
Arrangements between the Iraqi chain of command and the chain of command of the multinational force, the diplomat said, will be handled by an exchange of letters by officials on both sides.
Algerian UN Ambassador Abdallah Baali, the lone Arab representative on the Security Council, welcomed the revisions to the resolution. But he told reporters after consultations late yesterday that the resolution should contain more specific language about security coordination between Iraqi and multinational forces. "We believe that it can be addressed in a letter in detail, but it could be also referred to in a more precise way in the draft resolution," he said.
The discussions marked a new sense of urgency in UN chambers following the naming of the interim government. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the formation of the government an important step, while adding that the process "wasn't perfect." But Annan dismissed suggestions that the United Nations was manipulated by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council into approving its choices for the government.
Annan said his chief envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, had played the facilitator role envisioned earlier this year when the UN was invited to help guide the political transition. "It was never intended that the UN would go and impose a government on the Iraqis. We had to discuss it with them, and given the circumstances and the factors on the ground, it is not surprising that you have a mix of people from the Governing Council and from outside who are forming the new government. So, I think in a way Lakhdar Brahimi has done exactly what he set out to do," Annan said.
At a news conference in Baghdad today, Brahimi appealed to Iraqis to give the new interim government a chance to lead the country until elections are held next year. He said it will be up to the people to decide how well the interim government performs. The most immediate concern it must deal with, he said, is security.
Brahimi plans to remain in Baghdad to work on formation of a committee to prepare for a meeting in mid-July of a consultative body that will bring together a wide range of Iraqis to engage in a dialogue about their country's future. That assembly is to choose a national council of 100 members to help monitor the actions of the interim government.