As the United States struggles to win world support for its transfer of authority in Iraq, the Bush administration is running into diplomatic payback at the United Nations, senior U.N. diplomats said yesterday.
France, Russia, China -- three of the five nations with vetoes -- and Germany, Chile and Algeria are all urging changes or considering amendments to a new draft resolution that the United States and Britain circulated Tuesday, envoys said. The resolution is designed to confer legitimacy on Iraq's new interim government and the continued presence of U.S.-led foreign forces after the occupation ends June 30.
Several Security Council countries want more specifics in the resolution on the U.S.-led multinational force to ensure Iraq has the right to determine the length of its deployment and its mandate. They also want to spell out what the "return of full sovereignty" means to ensure that the U.S.-led occupation ends, U.N. sources say.
"We think that the co-sponsors made steps forward, but still we have problems," Alexander Konuzin, Russia's U.N. envoy, told reporters in New York. "There are a number of issues which should be discussed and positions are not that close yet."
Demands for further changes, the U.N. envoys said, reflect the diplomatic cost the United States incurred when it intervened in Iraq without U.N. approval: Security Council members want to help Iraq, but they are now wary of the Bush administration and do not want to let the United States easily get its way on this resolution without more detailed pledges of long-term intent.
"With this draft, the Americans have come a long way, but there is no pool of trust," said a senior U.N. diplomat familiar with the discussions who requested anonymity because of ongoing discussions.
Some countries are "not saddened" to see the United States squirming to get international backing for its plan to hand over political power June 30. Although the Security Council wants concessions, some also want to see the Bush administration "suffer," the official said.
"The Americans are wounded. They're desperate to get a resolution and a number of Security Council members are not trying to make anything easy for them," the official added.
The United States insisted yesterday that it expects to win the required support for the resolution. "We believe that we are able to . . . accommodate the requests and the views of most of the 15 members of the Security Council," Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels. "We expect relatively smooth sailing at the U.N. Security Council deliberations on this resolution."
Others suggested the challenges are positive signs that the United States will get its resolution. "So what's new -- it's the U.N. Some countries still have questions, but there's no smell of a veto and everyone recognizes that we have gone a long way in dealing with the issues they care about," said a senior State Department official familiar with negotiations.
Yet objections have already stalled the timing, U.N. envoys say. Britain, the resolution's co-sponsor, has been pressing for a vote by Sunday, but U.N. envoys say that is highly unlikely. Most Security Council countries also want to hear from the Iraqis before a vote to get clarification. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari is to brief the council today, but Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador told wire services that the new interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, should also meet with the council before a vote.
Algeria, backed by Islamic countries, is urging revisions to ensure that the multinational force fully respects international humanitarian law, a stipulation produced because of recent evidence of U.S. abuse of Iraqi detainees, U.N. envoys said.
The timing of a withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces remains an issue, despite a revised proposal stipulating that the multinational force would leave after completion of a constitution and elections for a permanent government, due by the end of 2005. But China has suggested that the new mandate expire after Iraq's first elections for an interim national assembly, tentatively scheduled for within seven months.
France has also asked for "automaticity" in the resolution to ensure that any Iraqi demand for a permanent withdrawal of foreign troops before the mandate is up would have to be accepted by the Security Council and all its members, U.N. envoys said.
"The general mood is that [the latest draft] moved in the right direction but it's too weak and too vague," said the French diplomat. "We need more precise language in terms of the nature of sovereignty and the mandate of the multinational force and its relations with Iraqi government and forces."