Approves resolution on Iraq

U.N., 15-0,

Vote legitimizes U.S. role, gives the United Nations influence on Iraq's future

October 17, 2003|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved an open-ended U.S. occupation of Iraq yesterday, but the new mandate appeared unlikely to relieve American troops and taxpayers of the major burden of stabilizing and rebuilding the country.

The 15-0 vote, supported by Russia, France, Germany and Syria - all strong opponents of the U.S.-led invasion last spring - broke a weeks-long deadlock in the Security Council and marked a striking diplomatic recovery by the Bush administration.

The resolution gives new legitimacy to U.S. control of Iraq, placing the United Nations' imprimatur on American-led military units in Iraq, which will now be designated a "multinational force."

In addition, the resolution allows for a gradual handover of power to a new, representative Iraqi government, without setting a deadline as called for by France, Russia and some other members of the Security Council.

But it gives the U.N. secretary-general an influential role in shaping Iraq's future and lets the Security Council decide whether the multinational force should stay in the country once Iraqis have developed a constitution and chosen a government. This will require the United States to lobby other members anew if it wants to prolong the occupation.

"Today's vote is a vote for the future of Iraq," said John D. Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, after the resolution was adopted.

U.S. officials hope it will prod other nations to help Iraq by sending troops to help stabilize the country and money to help rebuild it. The resolution calls for "substantial pledges."

"The world has an opportunity - and a responsibility - to help the Iraqi people build a nation that is stable, secure and free," President Bush said after the vote.

But with a conference of potential donor nations just a week away, pledges of money so far fall well short of Iraq's needs, estimated at more than $50 billion. The largest so far is from Japan, which is pledging $5 billion over four years, with $1.5 billion the first year. International financial institutions are expected to provide billions more in low-cost loans.

And the outlook for more troops - apart from the Turkish forces already promised - is uncertain.

France, Russia and Germany made it clear that they supported the resolution grudgingly. In a joint statement, the three nations said they did not intend to send troops to Iraq and would not contribute more money. France and Germany are part of the European Union, which has pledged $234 million.

"If there's a victory dance, it's a limited one. There's a lot of hard slogging ahead on this," a senior U.S. official said.

The Bush administration has all but given up earlier hopes of getting troops from India, and is now working on South Korea, Morocco, Pakistan and Bangladesh. South Korea is reportedly pushing for a more flexible U.S. stance toward North Korea as a trade-off. Pakistan wants the imprimatur of the Muslim world, such as support from the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Morocco and Bangladesh will need financial support if they commit troops, officials say.

"It will have a favorable effect in some countries that have indicated they would prefer to have an additional U.N. Security Council resolution. Which countries and how many troops it might affect ... remains to be seen," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon.

Opposition to the U.S.-drafted resolution was so strong late last week that senior administration officials were prepared to abandon the effort, barring success by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in a final blitz of telephone diplomacy.

"When you look at where we were, I never thought we would get 15 votes," an administration official said.

France, Russia and Germany, which had blocked Security Council approval of the invasion of Iraq, pushed hard to diminish U.S. power over the country. They wanted a quick handover of sovereignty to a provisional Iraqi government, a date for Iraqis to assume full control, and, in the meantime, a leading role for the United Nations in transforming Iraq into a democracy.

Despite concessions by both sides, it had appeared that the United States would get a hollow victory, winning a nine-vote majority but failing to get support from France, Russia and China, all veto-wielding Security Council members who were expected to abstain, or Germany, which holds one of 10 elected two-year seats.

China was the first to turn, informing the United States on Wednesday morning that it would back the resolution. Pakistan, a China ally that also holds a two-year seat, quickly followed.

China's switch put pressure on Russia, but Moscow remained unsatisfied with the U.S. draft despite calls between Powell and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

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