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Iraq: U.S. And Allies May Seek UN Mandate For Stability Force

The proposed international stability force for Iraq could be delayed as one of its leaders, Poland, now says it wants a UN mandate for the mission. The statement could signal the start of a diplomatic drive by Washington and some European partners to win approval from the UN for the new U.S.-led order in Iraq. RFE/RL looks at the developments.

Prague, 7 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Warsaw says it is ready to help lead a planned stability force for Iraq but that it wants a UN Security Council mandate for any such deployment.

Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz made the announcement after stepping out of a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington yesterday.

The top Polish diplomat told reporters, "We believe that we need that kind of resolution. I understand that in the days ahead there will be some initiatives opening the way to have such a resolution."

It is not clear to what extent he spoke for both Warsaw and Washington. But the Polish statement appeared to have the approval of top U.S. officials, including Powell, who praised Poland for contributing to U.S. efforts in Iraq.

"We are pleased that Poland is once again stepping up to its responsibilities by participating more fully in the activities of the operation of the ORHA [Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance] organization -- reconstruction and humanitarian activities [in Iraq]," Powell said.

The ORHA is the Pentagon office responsible for the civil administration of Iraq.

Cimoszewicz coupled his call for a UN mandate with a call for other European nations to also take part in the reconstruction of Iraq. "We need to invite and encourage as many as possible of our foreign partners to join us in Iraq, and Poland is very interested in getting to such a situation. We would like to have as many as possible European partners to work together with us," Cimoszewicz said.

The Polish calls could signal the start of a diplomatic drive by Washington and some European nations to win UN approval for the new U.S.-led order in Iraq. Until now, the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the occupation of Iraq has been almost entirely a U.S.-British effort. That narrow base is the result of sharp global disagreements before the war over whether Washington and London had the right to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, which they said posed an urgent threat to other countries.

Analysts say Washington now appears to want to mend the global rift by seeking a sweeping new UN resolution on Iraq, which would not only authorize deployment of a stability force but end the sanctions regime and possibly define a UN role in helping to administer the country.

Paul Cornish, a regional expert in the Department of War Studies at King's College, London, says the United States may now be looking to make Iraq a more multilateral operation as one way to put the global dispute to rest.

"You are getting hints that the United States is going to have to take a more multilateral approach, in time. I think the U.S. administration has always said that the immediate post-conflict moment is the responsibility of those who did the fighting, but we already are weeks and weeks along, and we are coming up to a different phase, and maybe this is the moment we begin to broaden it into a more multilateral operation," Cornish says.

Cornish says it is still too early to know how such a U.S. effort will be received by those countries that most strongly opposed the Iraq war, notably Russia, France, and Germany. But he says those countries, too, may now be looking -- like the United States -- for a face-saving way to mend the trans-Atlantic rifts.

France and Russia have strong economic interests in participating in Iraq's postwar oil industry and may see cooperating on a new UN resolution as one way to guarantee they have a role.

Cornish says that in Warsaw's calls yesterday for other European nations to join it in the stability force, Poland may have been seeking to help build a bridge from Washington to Paris and Berlin.

"It may be that it's a timely device to start mending bridges with other Europeans, as well, even the 'old' Europeans. If we can construct a UN mandate around this idea, and if we can actually begin to get something like an Iraq stabilization force, then maybe this is the sort of arrangement that the French and the Germans would be happier to be involved with," he says.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld early this year termed France and Germany part of an "old" Europe unwilling to support U.S. policies toward Iraq, in contrast to a "new" Europe represented by recent NATO members like Poland.

Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said yesterday an Iraq stabilization force could be based on a joint Polish-German-Danish NATO corps now stationed in northwestern Poland.

Berlin has appeared surprised at Polish suggestions that Germany join any stability force. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said on a visit to Vilnius yesterday that "Poland decided to take part in the coalition of the willing in Iraq [and] we are not part of the coalition."

It is not yet clear how Berlin's position might change if there is a UN mandate. German Defense Minister Peter Struck said yesterday in Berlin that "I want to note that the German government has always said if the United Nations asks our country for help, which does not necessarily mean military, we will not stand on the sidelines."

Poland is slated to lead the stability force, along with the United States and Britain. Ten mostly European nations are reported to have offered troops for the force. They are the United States, Britain, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Albania.

Those states are among 16 nations that previously met in London over forming a stability force. The full 16 nations -- which include Romania, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, among others -- were due to hold another meeting in London today, and a further conference on 22 May.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis said yesterday that "Lithuanian peacekeepers will go to Iraq."

The size and role of the stability force have yet to be detailed publicly.

Julian Lindley-French, director of European security policy at the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Switzerland, says the stability force would progressively replace the U.S. and British forces in Iraq now.

"In the early days, it would augment the 135,000 American troops inside Iraq now, but progressively replace them. And the idea is that there will be three regions of Iraq, with Poland and Britain controlling two zones and the United States the third," Lindley-French says.

He continues, "The British will clearly control the south. They know [the territory] and control the southern oil fields. The Americans [would control] the north and Baghdad, and I suspect that the Poles will play a role primarily over toward the western borders, which is less dangerous than the two other zones. What the Polish will do is act under an American-British headquarters, supported by several forces of several other countries."

The defense analyst says that U.S. and British officials are speaking about maintaining some 25,000 soldiers from each country in Iraq to control their zones, enabling Washington and London to withdraw most of their troops in a gradual process. He says the total number of the stability force, including non-U.S. and British troops, would likely be around 60,000 troops. No timeline has yet been set for the force's deployment.