-- France and Russia are proposing that the Bush administration grant a new Iraqi caretaker government greater control over the country's security forces after June 30 when the U.S.-led coalition transfers limited political authority to that government, senior Security Council diplomats said.
The initiatives by France and Russia, the council's chief opponents to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, clash with Washington's plans to place Iraqi and foreign armed forces in the country under the command of U.S. generals after June 30. It comes as U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi works to identify candidates for an interim government that can assume responsibilities on that date.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier is scheduled to travel to New York and Washington this week to press U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and senior Bush administration officials to sponsor U.N. resolutions saying that Iraq's transitional leaders will have the option of refusing U.S. military commanders if they order Iraqi forces to engage in combat operations. The French plan would also require that Iraq's new leaders exercise control over the country's oil wealth and its more than 200,000 police.
The French proposals come as the 15-nation council works through the details of a U.S. and British resolution that will define the powers of Iraq's interim government and U.S. military authorities. John D. Negroponte, the recently confirmed U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month that "Iraqi security forces will come under a command of the multinational force," because they are "simply not sufficiently numerous or equipped to take on that responsibility for themselves."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday that the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has the authority under U.N. Resolution 1511 to remain in Iraq throughout the political transition. But they voiced hope that a new U.N. resolution would broaden international support for stabilizing the country.
"We want it, the coalition in there wants it and . . . when we get it, we have a crack at getting some additional countries beyond the 33 countries that are currently there" participating in the coalition, Rumsfeld said.
The United States and Britain convened a meeting in New York on Wednesday to discuss the basic elements of a new Security Council resolution that would establish such a force and endorse an interim Iraqi government.
France, Germany and other antiwar members of the council have made it clear they will not send troops to Iraq to help restore stability or to protect U.N. officials overseeing the political transition. But they have indicated they would consider participating in the country's reconstruction and providing training to Iraqi police.
Russia, meanwhile, has asked the United States to consider delaying a decision to adopt a resolution authorizing a new multinational force until after Iraq's new interim leaders are selected. The transitional leaders would then participate in the discussions with the Security Council on a more ambitious resolution -- one that would define its new powers and establish a one-year mandate for a multinational force, which would be subject to renewal by the council.