Iraq yesterday called on the U.N. Security Council to pass an "unambiguous" resolution that will "invest full authority" in Baghdad's new interim government to run all of Iraq's affairs and have control over all security matters, stipulations that are virtually certain to require further revisions of the current U.S. draft, according to U.N. envoys.
In the new government's first appearance at the United Nations, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zubari said Iraq realistically will need the "assistance and partnership" of a U.S.-led multinational force after the occupation ends on June 30 because its premature departure could produce chaos and "the real possibility of a civil war."
But in a Security Council briefing, he also called for the force's presence to be "regulated" by arrangements that do not compromise Iraq's sovereignty. "The transitional Iraqi government must have a say in the future presence of these forces, and we urge this to be reflected in the new resolution," Zubari said.
The two most contentious issues in the draft, sponsored by the United States and Britain, are the scope of operations foreign troops can carry out once the occupation ends and how much control the interim government will have. John D. Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who will become the new ambassador to Iraq next month, pledged that the multinational force wants a "true partnership, founded on shared goals and tangible cooperation at all levels -- from the soldiers on foot patrols to the highest levels of two sovereign governments."
But France, China and Algeria are calling for Iraq to be able to block major U.S. military missions, an idea rejected by Washington.
In an interview with Middle East Broadcasting, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday rejected the idea of Iraq automatically having the final say. "You can't use the word 'veto,' " he said. "There could be a situation where we have to act and there may be a disagreement, and we have to act to protect ourselves or to accomplish a mission," Powell said.
Zubari called for other unspecified amendments that, he says, "correspond more fully to the wishes and aspirations of the Iraqi people."
In opening remarks, Iraq's top diplomat also said the transfer of sovereignty must ensure that Iraqis will "control, administer and manage" all of Iraq's resources and assets, a reference particularly to one of the world's largest oil reserves.
Debate on the resolution, through which all parties are seeking to confer legitimacy on the interim Iraqi government and to spell out the terms of the next phase of the transition, is expected to continue at the experts' level today. All 15 Security Council ambassadors are to hold a retreat with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan this weekend over the talks on Iraq and on West Africa, a meeting that U.N. envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi is expected to attend to rally support for the government he helped to select, U.N. envoys said.
A revised draft could be circulated early next week, with the United States and Britain hoping for a vote by week's end, the envoys said.
With the occupation scheduled to end in 26 days, security arrangements are now the most sensitive issue on several fronts, including the question of whether the U.S. allies now in Iraq will remain. President Bush warned yesterday after a meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard that a withdrawal of U.S. allies from Iraq "would be disastrous."
Australia has been a key member of the U.S.-led occupation, and the White House is now trying to rally the allies to extend their mandates beyond June 30, despite domestic opposition. Australia's opposition party has vowed to bring home the country's troops from Iraq by Christmas if it wins the elections later this year.
Bush met with Howard -- his third meeting in a week with the leader of a country that has troops in Iraq -- to urge continued cooperation in Iraq. Australia has only 850 troops there, but its participation is considered an important boost to the mission's credibility.
The Bush administration has been trying to win commitments from allies to remain in Iraq until a constitution has been written and a permanent government elected by the end of 2005. Bush's remarks in a Rose Garden appearance with Howard sought to prevent the further hemorrhaging of support after Spain's withdrawal.
Asked about the possibility of a new, less sympathetic government in Australia, Bush replied: "It would be a disastrous decision for the leader of a great country like Australia to say that, we're pulling out. It would dispirit those who love freedom in Iraq. It would say that the Australian government doesn't see the hope of a free and democratic society leading to a peaceful world."
Howard echoed that message. "This is not a time -- it is the worst time imaginable -- for allies to be showing any weakness in relation of the pursuit of our goals in Iraq," he told reporters. "We will keep a presence in Iraq," he said.