U.S. to appeal to U.N. to aid Iraqi handover

Diplomats are cautious of White House reversal

January 18, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

UNITED NATIONS - The United States will go to the United Nations tomorrow, asking the organization that the Bush administration has kept at a deliberate distance from its Iraq stabilization plan to step in and help rescue it.

In off-the-record comments, many here complain about being asked to validate a process from which they were excluded, and wonder if the world organization is not being manipulated by the White House for election-year political purposes.

The November agreement between the United States and the Iraqi Governing Council to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis on June 30 made no mention of any U.N. role, and the omission was one that Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he took as a snub.

But tomorrow, L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator in Iraq, and a delegation of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council will be asking Annan to commit the United Nations to saving the arrangement, after it has come under fire in Iraq.

Asked what the United Nations' mood was after being disparaged often by the Bush administration, Fred Eckhard, Annan's spokesman, said: "The gut instinct here is not `I told you so.' It's more relief that we are getting back to normalcy where governments work with each other, where international understanding is a national priority."

Annan has made it clear that although he favors a speedy timetable for giving authority to Iraqis, he is unwilling to commit the United Nations to an ill-defined mission. Tomorrow's meeting is consequently not expected to produce any definitive announcements.

It could serve, however, to ease the deep worry at the United Nations over the threat the strained relations with the Bush administration are seen to pose.

"It has been a truism since the time of the League of Nations that without the United States committed to and participating in international organizations, they are not going to work," one official said.

David M. Malone, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations who leads the International Peace Academy, a research institute across the street from the United Nations, said of tomorrow's meeting, "The positive feature is that the U.S. belatedly, but importantly, is realizing what its friends have told it all along - which is that the U.N. can be useful in these situations and can build confidence among multiple populations."

But he added, "The risk for the U.N. is that the U.S. could simply be seeking to establish a scapegoat for the failure of its grand design."

The U.N. Security Council will hear a report on Iraq in a closed session tomorrow afternoon from the current Governing Council chairman, Adnan Pachachi.

The president of the Security Council, Heraldo Munoz of Chile, said members were no longer focusing on the differences they had with the United States over the war.

"My feeling is that the moment of divisions has been overcome and that there is a strong consensus on the council around the idea that, even given the circumstances, we must do everything possible to assist the political process," Munoz said in an interview.

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