The United States and Britain presented the United Nations Security Council with a new draft resolution today that formally transfers power in Iraq to a "sovereign interim government" by June 30 and gives foreign troops the authority to "take all necessary measures" to ensure secure and prevent terrorism in the country.
The draft resolution, introduced at a closed-door meeting of the Security Council, gives the foreign troops a mandate of at least a year in Iraq, but allows the transitional Iraqi government to request a review of the mandate at any time.
The resolution will be among the main topics of a speech tonight by President Bush, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. The speech is the first of a series of addresses intended to stem eroding public support in the United States for Bush's policies in Iraq.
In the speech at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., at 8 p.m. EDT, Bush "will outline five specific steps we are taking to build a free and democratic Iraq for the Iraqi people," McClellan said at a White House briefing.
In addition to U.S. diplomatic efforts to encourage more international support, including the U.N. resolution, McClellan said, the address will deal with plans for elections in Iraq, efforts to eliminate security threats there and moves to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. The speech is being televised live by CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
In a fact sheet released more than an hour before Bush's speech, the White House also announced that among the infrastructure changes planned by U.S. officials is construction of a new maximum security prison for Iraq and the destruction of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. That facility, which was often used by the regime of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to torture political opponents, has become a "symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values," the White House fact sheet said.
The proposed Security Council resolution is aimed at conferring international legitimacy on the Iraqi interim government that is to receive political power at the end of next month from the occupation administration, a body headed by American diplomat L. Paul Bremer and officially known as the Coalition Provisional Authority.
The draft drew expressions of concern from some Security Council members -- notably France, Germany, Russia and China -- that it fails to give the Iraqis full sovereignty. But Germany's U.N. ambassador, Gunter Plueger, said the U.S. text represents "a good basis for discussion."
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said, "I think here there really is broad agreement," the Associated Press reported. "A consensus is producible, possible and desirable." Germany was among a number of U.S. allies that strongly opposed last year's U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The resolution leaves some key political issues unresolved, including who will have ultimate control over the use of Iraqi oil revenues, the duration of the U.S. military stay in Iraq and the extent of Iraq's authority over its own security forces.
French, German, Russian and Chinese diplomats have insisted the Iraqis be given control over their own police and the right to veto U.S. orders to send Iraqi forces into combat.
China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, said that he and other council envoys would introduce amendments that can "improve" the American text. "We need to give more say to the Iraqis on the role that will be played by the multinational force and also the duration" it can remain in Iraq. "It seems that it will be staying there even beyond 12 months."
U.S. and British officials said that they will define the limits of Iraq's power over military matters in a separate exchange of letters with the representatives of Iraq's caretaker government, which is expected to be identified by a U.N. special envoy to Iraq in the coming weeks.
Through the resolution, the Bush administration also seeks a U.N. imprimatur on the U.S.-led multinational force that administration officials have said is needed to maintain security after the formal transfer of sovereignty. U.S. officials have said the 135,000 American troops now occupying Iraq would leave if asked to do so by the new interim Iraqi government, but that such a request is unlikely because Iraqi authorities realize that their own forces cannot yet maintain security.
The resolution's provision on the multinational force gives it a mandate to remain in Iraq for at least a year, at which point the mandate is to be reviewed by the Security Council. But the resolution also allows the Iraqi government to request a review of the mandate earlier if it wishes.
"The Iraqis can call for a review anytime they want," said Richard Grenall, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations.
The U.S. deputy representative who presented the resolution, James Cunningham, acknowledged that "there is nothing in the resolution" that specifically grants Iraq the authority to force the foreign troops to withdraw after an elected government takes power. But he said the "United States has said that we will leave if there is a request from the government to do so."
The U.S. delegation to the United Nations is led by John D. Negroponte, who was recently confirmed by the Senate to be the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq. There he will run what is to become the largest American embassy in the world.
The multinational force would "have the authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq including by preventing and deterring terrorism," the draft resolution says.
It asks U.N. member states and international security organizations "to contribute assistance to the multinational force, including military forces," and to help the interim Iraqi government develop effective police, border guards and other security forces.
Under the resolution, the new Iraqi interim government would also take receipt of the country's oil revenues, but an international board would be responsible for auditing their expenditure.
The draft resolution, noting that the Coalition Provisional Authority will "cease to exist" on June 30, says that a "sovereign interim government" would take office then and "assume the responsibility and authority for governing a sovereign Iraq."
The document does not mention the current U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, a 25-member body formed last July as a step toward representative government.
Nor does it say what is to become of U.S. military detention facilities and prisoners held by U.S. forces.
The Security Council did not immediately set a date for a vote on the resolution.
A U.N. special envoy, former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi, has been working to form a new interim Iraqi government with U.S. blessing. Under a U.S. plan, that government is to preside in a caretaker capacity and prepare for elections in January 2005 for a national assembly. Brahimi has said the new interim government would include a prime minister, a president and two vice presidents, but none of the participants has yet been named.
Several members of the governing council have come out in opposition to Brahimi's plan, including Ahmed Chalabi, a former exile who once enjoyed the strong backing of the Pentagon as a potential future leader of a democratic Iraq. He announced last week that he was cutting ties with the Coalition Provisional Authority after his home and office were raided by Iraqi police with backing from U.S. forces.
McClellan said that in discussing the draft U.N. Security Council resolution in tonight's speech, Bush would stress that his administration is moving to broaden international support for his course in Iraq.
"We want to see even greater international support," McClellan said. "This resolution marks a new phase in the transition to democracy for Iraq. It recognizes the end of the occupation and the beginning of sovereignty for the Iraqi people." He said the draft commits the international community to support the interim government and the timetable for holding elections in Iraq, as well as providing for a leading U.N. role in the political process.
McClellan said the resolution also "reaffirms support for a multinational force to partner with the Iraqi people in providing for their security going forward."
He said that multinational force would be led by a U.S. commander, although "the Iraqi forces will be under an Iraqi chain of command." U.S. officials had said earlier that the Iraqi forces would work "in partnership" with the multinational forces, which would have a unified command headed by an American general.
Asked how much sovereignty the interim Iraqi government would really have, McClellan insisted that it would exercise "full sovereignty." But he added that it would "have limited authority in the sense that they are there to be a caretaker government as we transition to . . . an elected representative government."
In tonight's speech, the president will make clear that he is "confident about the direction we're headed," McClellan said. "But let me state very clearly that we are at a critical stage in Iraq. The stakes are very high. The terrorists recognize that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. . . .
"We face a clear choice going forward. We can work to build a free, democratic and peaceful Iraq, or we can let the terrorists prevail. But the terrorists will not prevail. When we succeed in Iraq, it will be a decisive blow to the terrorists in the war on terrorism."
Lynch reported from U.N. headquarters in New York.