U.S. is dealt setback as it seeks U.N. help in Iraq

Resolution faces defeat unless Washington yields some power, diplomats say

October 08, 2003|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Despite a month of lobbying, the United States has failed to win support for a new United Nations resolution that it hoped would help generate foreign money and troops to rebuild and stabilize Iraq, diplomats said yesterday.

Unless the Bush administration agrees to yield significant authority in Iraq, several diplomats said, the resolution is probably doomed. Its failure would diminish the chances of gaining much international aid for Iraq or of enlisting the United Nations to help guide the country toward democratic rule.

Many of the U.N. Security Council's 15 members were swayed last week by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who criticized American plans to retain overall authority in Iraq for at least the next year and to grant only a limited role to U.N. representatives.

Sean McCormack, a White House spokesman, said no decision had been made on whether to abandon the effort to secure a new U.N. resolution. Other officials said, however, that the administration could decide soon whether to drop its resolution.

"We're going to sit down and take a look and think about our draft," McCormack said, indicating, though, that major changes were unlikely. "We think we have a good draft."

The diplomatic setback at the United Nations was offset yesterday by American success in securing a pledge from Turkey's parliament to send an uncertain number of troops into Iraq to join American, British and Polish forces in trying to restore security. But the pledge from Turkey provoked unease in Iraq and outright opposition among Kurds in northern Iraq, where Turkish troops have conducted incursions in the past to crush Kurdish militants.

Members of the Iraqi Governing Council, a group handpicked by the United States, told reporters in Baghdad that the council was unanimously opposed to the arrival of Turkish troops, though the council did not adopt a formal stance.

Frustrating task

The frustrating task of trying to stabilize Iraq has been undermined by an increasingly well-organized resistance movement, augmented by foreign fighters, that has attacked U.S. forces with frequent ambushes, gunfights and occasional suicide bombings.

The security problems, and the failure to fully restore electric power, have brought rising criticism from Democrats in Congress as the Bush administration tries to win approval of $87 billion for securing and rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan.

To speed up the reconstruction efforts in both countries, President Bush has ordered a shake-up of the Iraq operation that gives the White House a stronger role in responding to the needs of the allied provisional authority in Iraq, led by L. Paul Bremer III.

Numerous U.S. officials, inside and outside the White House, had said that the administration's decision-making process was slow and complicated by bureaucratic infighting between the State and Defense departments.

Now, a new Iraq Stabilization Group will be led by Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. The new structure will enhance the role of Rice and her staff at the White House.

Though Bremer will continue to report to the Pentagon, the shake-up is seen as diminishing the dominant role played in postwar Iraq by the staff of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. It also suggests that the administration now recognizes that it underestimated the task it confronted in postwar Iraq.

Officials said the reorganization was conducted in anticipation of a heavy administration workload in lobbying Congress for money, in reconstructing Iraq and in guiding Iraqis toward self-government.

The resolution

The diminishing prospects for a U.N. resolution, proposed a month ago, leave the United States bearing most of the risks and burdens of running postwar Iraq, with the help of Britain.

The administration had envisioned the U.N. resolution as a vehicle for turning the U.S.-led occupation force into a multinational team under a U.N. mandate. While still commanded by Americans, a multinational force would be seen as satisfying the demands of countries that did not want to be viewed as part of an occupation army but would still be willing to contribute troops.

Such a resolution was also seen as vital to securing financial support from donor countries at a conference in Madrid, Spain, set to start Oct. 23, and to enlisting help for Iraq from international banks. But the U.S.-drafted resolution appears to have foundered on the process the United States proposed for turning the country over to Iraqi self-rule and on the role it assigned to the United Nations.

The draft called for the provisional authority, under Bremer, to retain ultimate control over the country. The Iraqi Governing Council, meanwhile, would draft a constitution, which Iraqis would ratify, and conduct elections for a permanent government. That process could take at least a year. The United Nations would help the governing council prepare for a political transition while supplying humanitarian help.

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