The United Nations Security Council has reaffirmed its support for UN efforts to rehabilitate Iraq following the terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad. Members confirmed there are discussions about a possible new resolution on Iraq but it was not immediately clear whether there was consensus for expanding the UN's mandate. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is to present proposals today to the Council for strengthening the mandate.
United Nations, 21 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Members of the UN Security Council, still marked by divisions over Iraq, are searching for a way to safeguard future UN operations in the country after the devastating 19 August attack.
The Council issued a statement late yesterday condemning the "terrorist attack" on the UN center in Baghdad, which killed at least 23 people, including chief envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
But it's not clear whether the Council can come together on a new resolution that would open the way for more multinational support of the U.S.-led coalition's peacekeeping efforts. U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte said yesterday Council members are looking at the possibility of a new resolution.
"I think there's a lot of reflection and assessment going on as to what else might be done to deal with the many challenges that are faced in Iraq, and one of the possibilities that is being seriously thought about is the possibility of another UN Security Council resolution. But we don't have any specific proposal to put on the table at the moment," Negroponte said.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will attend a meeting of the Council today to discuss strengthening the UN mandate in Iraq.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will also visit UN headquarters today for a meeting (1500 Prague time) with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Annan returned to New York yesterday from Sweden. He had a short meeting with Council members in which he stressed the need for a better security environment in Iraq. He said this was the responsibility of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Annan commented on security concerns upon arriving at UN headquarters: "We've all been aware that security has been a problem in Iraq, and I know that efforts are being made to bring that under control. And I hope that will succeed soon, because without security, quite a lot of the things that the international community wants to do cannot happen."
But without a more prominent UN role, police or military contributions from most Arab and Muslim states are unlikely.
Syria's deputy UN ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad, told reporters yesterday the U.S.-led coalition cannot expect military support from Arab states: "This is a complex issue, but Syrian troops or Arab troops will not be sent to Iraq under occupation."
Meanwhile, one senior Council diplomat yesterday suggested a possible new approach to dealing with Iraq's security problem -- via a common UN front against terrorism in Iraq. The Council's two statements since the attack have both condemned it as terrorism.
The senior diplomat told RFE/RL: "If the discussion is, 'how do we fight terrorism?' that may help Arab countries join multinational efforts in Iraq."
This approach may be one UN members can rally around, says Steven Dimoff, an expert on U.S.-UN relations at the independent United Nations Association.
Dimoff tells RFE/RL that the attack -- the worst-ever against a UN facility -- may have shocked a number of countries into reassessing their position on Iraq.
"The fact that the United Nations -- which is often seen as a kind of neutral force, if you will, in these kinds of situations -- could come under attack, I think clearly changes for some countries, at least, the context in which they view this whole situation," Dimoff said.
But if the UN role in transforming Iraq becomes the main issue, Dimoff says, the coalition members will need to consider providing a larger UN mandate for Iraq's reconstruction.
Key troop-contributing countries such as India have said a clear UN mandate is needed for Iraq before they will commit troops. U.S. officials have repeatedly said Resolution 1483, passed by the Council in May, invites the international community to contribute to the security of Iraq.