Britain has prepared a detailed plan for the postwar governance of Iraq that would legitimize the use of force by coalition powers to quell resistance and provide a key role for the United Nations in selecting a new Iraqi interim authority and managing the country's oil wealth.
The British proposals are not being presented for an immediate vote, but rather are aimed at influencing the debate on Iraq's future in Washington and at the United Nations. Britain is concerned that the Bush administration's plans to unilaterally establish an interim authority headed by U.S. officials and Iraqi exiles will undermine efforts to unify the U.N. Security Council behind an internationally backed reconstruction effort.
On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw presented Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in Brussels with a paper detailing some of Britain's proposals for the "day after" fighting ends, according to U.S. and British officials. Prime Minister Tony Blair is planning to press President Bush when they meet in Northern Ireland Monday and Tuesday to give the United Nations a more prominent role in Iraq's reconstruction, according to U.S. and British officials.
"Our aim is to move as soon as possible to an interim authority run by Iraqis," Blair said today in a message broadcast to the Iraqi people. "Coalition forces will make the country safe and will work with the United Nations to help Iraq get back on its feet."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said today that it's too early to discuss the "exact nature" of the U.N.'s postwar role in Iraq. But, he said, "I think there will be some conversations about it" in Bush's meeting with Blair.
Powell said the United States was pressing ahead with its own plan to assemble an interim Iraqi authority. "We are anxious to move quickly now that the day of liberation is drawing near," he said.
Because the U.S.- and British-led invasion of Iraq began without U.N. approval, Britain sees it as critical to obtain Security Council endorsement of the postwar plans, particularly to legitimize any use of force. A draft resolution prepared by London last month would grant the U.S.-led coalition authority to "use all necessary means" to deter renewed hostilities following the collapse of the government of President Saddam Hussein. It calls for the establishment of an international police force to help keep the peace and provide for the safe return of Iraqi refugees.
Britain has decided not to formally present its full draft resolution to the Security Council immediately after the war ends, according to U.N. diplomats. Instead the British are planning to take a "step-by-step approach," pressing for approval of specific provisions in the resolution that stand the best chance of approval, then moving on to the more controversial proposals.
One European diplomat said Britain would like the council to agree to send U.N. weapons inspectors back to Iraq to verify the coalition's disarmament of the government. The United States has questioned the need for that, but there is broad consensus among the other council members that U.N. inspectors are the only legitimate judges of Iraq's disarmament.
Britain's plan for Iraq envisions the appointment for at least 12 months of a "U.N. special coordinator" who would "supervise a process leading" to the establishment of an interim authority in Iraq and the eventual drafting of a new constitution, according to diplomats.
The senior U.N. official would be granted powers, subject to consultations with the U.S.-led coalition, to run a new U.N. mission that would coordinate the work of the U.N. aid agencies, international relief groups and other multilateral institutions participating in the reconstruction of Iraq.
The U.N. official would also take charge of an overhauled U.N. oil-for-food program. The seven-year-old humanitarian program, which was suspended by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on the eve of the invasion, permits the export of oil in order to purchase food, medicines and other humanitarian goods. "The money from Iraqi oil will be yours," said Blair in his message to the Iraqis. "It will no longer be used by Saddam Hussein."