French and German leaders are raising objections to a planned United Nations resolution seeking international support for U.S. attempts at stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq. They say the draft does not go far enough to ensure a rapid transfer of power to the Iraqis. The UN Security Council -- of which France is a permanent member -- is due to discuss the U.S.-backed draft resolution later today in New York.
Prague, 5 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Confronted with mounting instability in Iraq, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is proposing that the UN authorize the deployment of international peacekeepers in the country and legitimize the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council it installed last month in Baghdad.
While describing Washington's willingness to work with the UN in Iraq as a step in the right direction, France and Germany believe the latest U.S. initiative is insufficient.
Addressing reporters in Dresden at the end of a French-German summit, French President Jacques Chirac yesterday said that -- in his opinion -- the draft resolution "appears some way from the principal goal, which is the transfer of authority to an Iraqi government as soon as possible."
Schroeder said he is in full agreement with Chirac, saying both Paris and Berlin believe Iraq's reconstruction -- now in the hands of the U.S. -- should be run by the Iraqis themselves.
"Whatever your stance on the war and its justification, it is now time to give Iraq a perspective for stability and democracy. It is time to think about the future. Such a perspective can realistically develop successfully only if the United Nations takes over responsibility for the political processes and, especially, if an Iraqi government -- a government that can be responsible for the functioning of Iraq -- is successfully installed," Schroeder says.
The U.S.-backed resolution aims at getting more countries to contribute soldiers to a security force and cash to the rebuilding efforts, while insisting on Washington's dominant political role in Iraq. While not explicitly placing the U.S. military in charge of the proposed multinational force, the draft says Washington would report to the UN Security Council on efforts undertaken by the troops.
During a visit to Prague today, Schroeder said there has been some "movement" on the issue of a UN resolution: "We agree that, regardless of how the war came into being, [we must work to create a democratic and stable state] both for the Iraqi people and for the stability of the entire region. We're going to work on that. Concerning the [UN] resolution, there's been some movement there, and we must acknowledge that. That was made clear yesterday. What the resolution will mean in practice, that's up to the UN Security Council to decide. "
In an apparent bid to avoid a new diplomatic face-off with Washington, such as the one that preceded the war on Iraq, France and Germany have said they will discuss the U.S. proposals further, with a view to presenting "amendments and modifications."
The Bush administration shrugged off the objections raised by Paris and Berlin.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is believed to be the main initiator of the draft resolution, said he believes Washington's proposals meet the concerns expressed in the past by French and German leaders.
"I don't sense from their statement that [Schroeder and Chirac] said exactly what they are looking for, or who they would turn [responsibility for running Iraq] over to if we were turning it over right away. What we thought was the best approach to take was to ask the Iraqis to come up with a plan as how they would like to see a transition through elections, through the creation of democratic institutions, and to the holding of free elections," Powell said.
France and Germany were joined in their criticism by Russia, another UN Security Council permanent member and fierce critic of the U.S.-led war on Iraq.
In comments made in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, today, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the U.S. proposals "deserved attention," but that a lot more work is needed so that they fully meet Moscow's concerns.
Last weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he "doesn't see anything wrong" with the possible participation of international forces in Iraq under U.S. command but said such a force must be authorized by the Security Council.
In an interview published in today's edition of France's "Le Figaro" newspaper, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the multinational force sought by Washington should -- first and foremost -- serve the new Iraqi government.
"Security cannot be dissociated from political and economic issues. If there were to be a multinational force, it must serve the new Iraqi authorities," he said.
Villepin, who attended yesterday's French-German summit in Dresden, also elaborated on Paris's grievances toward the U.S.-backed draft UN resolution. He said the UN should be granted more responsibilities over political transition in Iraq.
France's top diplomat also believes the situation in Iraq is unlikely to improve unless the U.S. fundamentally modifies its approach.
"The [draft resolution proposed by the U.S.] does not fundamentally change the current framework," Villepin said. "It remains essentially inspired by a logic of security and does not take sufficiently into account the political necessity of quickly giving Iraq back its sovereignty by transferring executive power to its institutions." He added that devolution of power to the Iraqis is a prerequisite to stability in the region.
"The starting point is that without the Iraqis, we will achieve nothing," he said.
(RFE/RL correspondent Kathleen Knox contributed to this story.)