U.N. Compromise Wins Bush Rare Praise
By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2004; 7:00 AM
Stop the presses! Get me rewrite! President Bush is actually getting positive coverage in the international online media.
After the U.N. Security Council's unanimous approval of a U.S.-backed Iraq resolution on Tuesday, foreign commentators and officials are speaking favorably about the American president. The White House's willingness to compromise on the language handing over power to the new Iraqi government won a measure of praise unusual for a man routinely excoriated in the global press.
As Bush meets with world leaders at the G-8 Summit in Georgia, he can plausibly claim U.N. support for his Iraq policy after a long period of deep division.
Even the French leftists who run Le Monde (in French) credited Bush with "an undeniable victory," while faulting the resolution for leaving the Americans in effective control of the country.
The vote, said Paul Reynolds, world affairs correspondent for the BBC, "will certainly take some of the pressure off" Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair "because they are now able to argue that the occupation is formally ending and that the troops are remaining at the request of the interim government and under the authority of the United Nations."
According to the Arab News in Saudi Arabia, the U.N. vote marked "the first time since the invasion that the outside world has spoken with one voice on the country's future."
The Bush administration, said the Riyadh daily, "has come a long way from its assertive mood of a year ago. Washington has had to accept that Iraq is not the straightforward task it fantasized. The French meanwhile, who have been most consistent in their criticism of Washington and by extension coalition policy, have accepted that there is no further point in saying what is wrong. Now is the time step in and see what can be done better [sic]."
The editors of the Guardian, the liberal London daily that editorialized strongly against the war, declared that the resolution "is unlikely to make Iraq a safer place for foreign troops to operate. Nor will it alter Iraqi perceptions about the nature of the occupation."
"But if it works," they added, "it could give more credibility to Washington's case that real sovereignty will be transferred to Baghdad at the end of this month and that in turn increases the likelihood of a stable sovereign government emerging from the whole sorry saga."
"The important thing was that the US had listened," they concluded. "In a negotiation, the French argued, you win some, you lose some. It is a long time since this sort of diplomatic language was heard in the UN's corridors. After the mayhem of recent months, achieving a consensus on what to do next in Iraq is in itself significant."
Without mentioning Bush by name, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, welcomed the United States' willingness to compromise, according the People's Daily.
Guangya was quoted as saying, "China is gratified that many proposals tabled by council members including China have been taken into account in the resolution."
The key to unanimity was U.S. and British willingness to accept several revisions in the language of the resolution noted al-Jazeera.
The Web site of the Arab cable news channel described the evolution of the resolution. The original U.S. and British draft opened with a reaffirmation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. The resolution that ultimately passed marked the break with the U.S. and British occupation in stronger language.
It welcomed "the beginning of a new phase in Iraq's transition to a democratically elected government" and looked forward "to the end of the occupation and the assumption of full responsibility and authority by a fully sovereign and independent interim government."
Another compromise, according to al-Jazeera, concerned the mandate for the multinational force. Bush and Blair proposed that it be reviewed after 12 months or at the request of the transitional government that will take power early next year. It gave no deadline for the force's mandate to end. The final draft states that the U.N. mandate will expire after elections held by the end of 2005 and that the Security Council "will terminate this mandate earlier if requested by the government of Iraq."
But the enthusiasm for Bush's diplomacy should not be overstated. International observers have not abandoned their skepticism of the president's motives . In another article, al-Jazeera expressed doubt that the "US-led occupation" would allow "any significant transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis" or that Iraqi resistance would lessen attacks against military occupation forces.
Citing "the widespread belief" by political analysts that the June 30 deadline was chosen to help Bush's reelection campaign, al-Jazeera said, "the leading question is how much political benefit Bush will derive from the announced changes in Iraq."
Bush has already derived some benefit: His international critics are suddenly quieter.
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