All 15 members of the council adopted the measure -- known as Resolution 1546 -- saying it had met the threshold for ending occupation and giving local authorities sufficient control over security matters.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, who will soon be the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq, said there should be no doubt that full sovereignty is being restored to the Iraqi caretaker government. "This resolution makes clear that Iraq's sovereignty will be undiluted and that the government of Iraq will have the sovereign authority to request and to decline assistance, including in the security sector," he said. "The government of Iraq will have the final say on the presence of the multinational force."
Many council members expressed appreciation that the United States and Britain -- the main sponsors of the measure -- responded to their concerns.
In the course of negotiations the sponsors added a clause giving a timeline for the end of the mandate for multinational forces. That will take place once a permanent Iraqi government is in place, about January 2006. They added language that says Iraq can demand the Security Council end the mandate sooner. Another clause makes explicit that Iraqi forces would come under command of Iraqi leaders.
French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere praised the negotiation process and said the resolution is significant for normal Iraqis. "It was more than important, it was essential that the Iraqi people have ownership of the political process and we have said also that this transfer of sovereignty was important because the Iraqi people must -- must -- perceive the government as their government," he said. "The Iraqi people must perceive that the occupation has ended."
A key section of the resolution says U.S. and Iraqi officials will establish a security partnership, including setting up a mechanism for dealing with what the resolution called "sensitive offensive operations."
Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali, the only Arab representative on the council, said the resolution was not perfect but was the best possible option under the circumstances. "[It] is indeed a well-balanced text which, among other things, manages to reconcile two extremes -- namely, the concept of sovereignty of Iraq that had to be totally restored and reasserted beyond any doubt or limitation, and the necessity to maintain on Iraqi soil the presence of an effective and fully operational multinational force," Baali said.
The new Iraqi government hopes the UN endorsement will give it legitimacy among its people and in the region. Earlier yesterday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations that the new resolution could help his government cope with security problems. "The significance of this resolution for us, for the Iraqis, is really to take away the concept of occupation which, I would say, was the main reason for many of the difficulties that we have been getting through since liberation on 9 April ," Zebari said.
At the Group of Eight (G-8) summit yesterday, U.S. President George W. Bush, welcomed the vote as a triumph for Iraqis. "The vote today in the United Nations Security Council was a great victory for the Iraqi people. The international community showed that we stand side-by-side with the Iraqi people. The UN Security Council supports the interim government, supports free elections, supports a multinational force," Bush said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair also praised the vote.
Questions remain about a possible future role for peacekeepers in Iraq. Bush yesterday did not indicate whether there would be more support forthcoming for peacekeeping. Four members of the G-8 -- France, Germany, Russia, and Canada -- have said they won't send troops to help the multinational force.
But most of them have said they will increase reconstruction aid through various measures. In addition, China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, told reporters China is discussing with Iraqi leaders a $25 million aid package. He said China is also considering canceling Iraqi debts to the government.
Wang expressed gratitude that the council had reached consensus after many divisive debates over Iraq. "I hope that this episode will teach us a lesson that multilateralism, the United Nations Security Council, is still important on major issues. Therefore, I'm glad that the co-sponsors came back to the Security Council and asked for the United Nations to help," Wang said.
At least one potentially divisive issue remains for Iraqis -- the status of interim constitution, known formally as the Transitional Administrative Law.
The Security Council resolution's preamble welcomes the Iraqi government's commitment to work toward a federal, democratic, pluralistic, and unified state.
That language reflects the aims of the interim constitution. But the resolution does not specifically refer to the interim constitution signed in March. Key leaders of Iraq's majority Shi'a community oppose the law because of autonomy provisions for Kurds.