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Iraq: UN Security Council Prepares To Endorse Transfer Of Sovereignty

Lakhdar Brahimi (file photo) With most of the substantive issues settled, the UN Security Council is expected to adopt later today a resolution endorsing the handover of sovereignty to interim Iraqi authorities on 30 June. Council members say the latest draft includes enough assurances from Washington that Iraqi authorities will maintain a high level of control over security matters after the transfer of power. Chief UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told the council that the incoming government's top challenge will be to resolve the country's security issues.

United Nations, 8 June 2004 (RFE/RL) -- UN Security Council members appear to have resolved key differences over the resolution restoring sovereignty to Iraq and are set to vote on the measure today.

The co-sponsors of the measure, the United States and Britain, added language to the text that stresses a close degree of coordination between Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led multinational force that will remain after the 30 June transfer of power.

Iraqi interim leaders want the force to stay and maintain order while they prepare for direct elections by January. But they have also said they need to keep a measure of control over military activities to ensure that Iraqi sovereignty is seen as genuine.
UN Ambassadors who had challenged previous versions of the resolution said a primary concern was leaving an impression that Iraqi sovereignty was not credible.

The latest language changes come in addition to letters sent to the council on 6 June by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi addressing security arrangements. The letters, parts of which are reflected in the new draft resolution, say that the U.S. commander and Iraqi leaders would consult on security issues, including policy on "sensitive offensive operations," through a national security committee.

Previous changes to the resolution give the interim Iraqi government the right to order U.S. troops to leave Iraq. The measure also says that the multinational force mandate would expire in January 2006, when a permanent Iraqi government is expected to take office.

Germany's UN ambassador, Guenter Pleuger, said late yesterday the resolution was now a "very good text." "My feeling is we have found a compromise," he said. "Final little touches will be done tonight, perhaps by the co-sponsors, but my feeling is that we will be able to vote on the resolution tomorrow."

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said today his country is still not fully satisfied with the resolution, but will give a positive vote. Russian President Vladimir Putin had also praised the changes to the resolution.

Ambassadors who had challenged previous versions of the resolution said a primary concern was leaving an impression that Iraqi sovereignty was not credible. Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Munoz noted this before heading into council consultations last night. "The effort we have to make now is for the people on the street so that everyone understands that this is a major departure from what occurred before and a new start, and that's what we would like to see in the resolution and I think there's some fine-tuning still to do," he said.

Before last night's consultations, UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi briefed the chamber on UN efforts to forge the interim government. He said the process was delicate and took place under "less than optimal" conditions.

But now, Brahimi said, Iraq has two institutions essential to move to the next phase -- an interim government and an independent election commission. "The Iraqi people seem to be willing to give them a chance to prove themselves," he said. "There should be no illusion, however. The days and weeks ahead will severely test this new government and the solutions to Iraq's current challenges will take years, not months, to overcome."

Brahimi said many of the Iraqis he met with during a series of consultations this spring said the problem of insecurity could not be solved through military means alone. He said the caretaker government would need to lead efforts toward a political solution of the country's problems.

"The interim government will need to lead the discussions on what that political solution should comprise. It will need to reach out to those who have been vocal critics of this past year's process and engage them in dialogue. It will need to resist the temptation to characterize all who have opposed the occupation as terrorists," Brahimi said.

Brahimi said the news of an agreement to disband the country's militias was encouraging. Equally important, he said, was to reform the process for detaining prisoners at the Abu Ghurayb prison. He said Iraqis had been traumatized by the photos of mistreatment of prisoners by U.S. forces there.