Annan lambastes U.S. resolution on power in Iraq

U.N. chief says world body gets to lead transition or will not take any role

October 03, 2003|By Maggie Farley | Maggie Farley,LOS ANGELES TIMES

UNITED NATIONS - In an unusually critical response to a new U.S. draft resolution on Iraq, Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued an ultimatum yesterday: Either give the United Nations a leading role in the nation's political transition or the world body won't be involved in Iraq at all.

Steeled by two attacks on the U.N. Baghdad headquarters in a month, Annan said a new resolution must provide "a radical change" that could safeguard the U.N. staff and the mission's independence from the U.S.-led occupation, according to diplomats and U.N. officials who attended the session.

He said the changes offered by the Bush administration do neither: "Obviously, it's not going in the direction I had recommended."

In a closed-door luncheon with the Security Council after the 15 members discussed the U.S. proposal, the usually soft-spoken Annan delivered a stern message to the group - they should pursue a resolution they all can support, but he was not going to risk his people for a marginal role, said the diplomats and officials.

"It was like a cold shower," said Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Munoz. "He was very realistic about how he feels about the U.N. role."

Annan had suggested that to reduce the hostility in Iraq toward the occupying powers and others, such as the U.N. staffers who were perceived to be helping them, there should be a symbolic shift of sovereignty within a few months to an Iraqi provisional government.

Then the United Nations or the U.S.-led administration of Iraq - but not both - could work with the Iraqis on drafting a constitution and setting up elections. The Iraqis would invite a U.S.-led multinational force to stay and help stabilize the country.

"Obviously, that is not what is in the draft," Annan said after the lunch. "This had been my suggestion in the sense that it may change the dynamics on the ground, in terms of the security situation, and send a message to the Iraqi people and also to the region."

Annan's message chilled the council's reaction to the new draft, which was circulated by the U.S. delegation Wednesday after weeks of consultations with nations that opposed the war and have resisted aiding the occupation.

This version offers several concessions, including an expanded but not central role for the United Nations and a multinational force under U.S. command that would report to the Security Council. It calls for an accelerated transition to self-rule, directed by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, with help from the world body and the U.S.-led coalition.

But it did not include the significant changes that Annan and many nations were looking for - especially a symbolic end to the occupation.

Annan rejected the idea that the world body and the occupying authorities could guide the political transition, comparing it to "a horse with two jockeys," a U.N. official said.

After the luncheon, diplomats from France, China, Russia, Mexico and Germany said they needed fresh instructions from their capitals because it made no sense to pursue a resolution Annan found so unsatisfactory.

"This changes the whole thing," said one council diplomat. "It puts everything on hold."

U.S. officials said yesterday that they might seek a vote on the resolution toward the end of next week but at this point still anticipate at least six members choosing to abstain. A resolution needs nine of 15 votes in favor, and no vetoes, to pass; one more abstention would kill it.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops traded shots with guerrillas in a firefight yesterday near the center of Fallujah, a town about 30 miles west of Baghdad, witnesses said.

The attack began after an ambush on American troops outside the Fallujah mayor's office. One man was killed, and a woman, a 6-year-old girl and two men were wounded.

At a news conference in Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, said guerrilla attacks are becoming more dangerous. "The enemy has evolved, a little bit more lethal, a little more complex, a little more sophisticated," Sanchez said. Attacks will continue and might become even more deadly, he said.

Separately, the U.S, military said yesterday that a rocket-propelled grenade had killed a soldier in a convoy near Samarra, 100 miles north of Baghdad.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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