In a major push to win international backing before the Group of Eight summit begins, the United States made several last-minute concessions to incorporate French and Russian demands in a proposed United Nations resolution on Iraq. It should win unanimous support in a Security Council vote today, U.N. diplomats predicted.
Passage would be a pivotal victory for the Bush administration as it ends a 14-month occupation of Iraq -- and be a stark contrast to the divisions and diplomatic disarray at the world body when the United States failed last year to win U.N. backing for a resolution authorizing military intervention in Iraq.
The resolution is critical for Iraq, because it bestows international legitimacy on the new government 22 days before the occupation ends. With the U.N. vote today, U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte said, Iraq will soon begin "a new phase in the political history, the full restoration of sovereignty and authority over Iraq's own affairs."
Even France, the most demanding party in the U.N. debate, sounded pleased with the resolution after both major and minor modifications yesterday. "It's much improved. . . . Things are going in the right direction," said French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere. "We're almost finished."
In a widely backed move, France and Germany had insisted that Baghdad have the right to veto Iraqi participation in "sensitive offensive operations" led by a U.S.-dominated multinational force, which was the final major concession by the United States and Britain, the resolution's co-sponsors.
German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said the new text reflects French and German concerns. "I think we have reached a stage where the resolution has a very good text," he told reporters in New York. "My feeling is we have found a compromise."
The negotiations were fraught with last-minute scrambling, after several of the 15 Security Council members said the fourth draft introduced yesterday was not good enough, forcing the drafters to go back for further revisions and offer a fifth version late last night.
The new draft also now accommodates a Russian demand for an international conference to support the Iraqi transition and foster stability in the region. Moscow had sought to widen the role of countries not in the U.S.-led coalition.
In response to requests from several Security Council countries, the latest draft incorporates language emphasizing the Iraqi people's right "freely to determine their own political future" -- a modification to address the sensitive issue of how much sovereignty the new Iraqi government will assume when the occupation ends on June 30. In addition, the new draft emphasizes that the goal in Iraq will be "full respect for political and human rights," a request by Chile.
But the most controversial aspect of the lengthy resolution has been the "security partnership" arrangements between Iraq and the U.S.-led multinational force of about 160,000 troops.
The resolution now pledges "close coordination" between Baghdad and U.S. commanders and incorporates security arrangements unveiled Sunday in two letters by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Prime Minister-designate Ayad Allawi.
At the same time, however, the draft allows the multinational force to take "all necessary measures" to provide security and reserves the right to detain Iraqis viewed as a security threat. The latter remains a sensitive issue because of prisoner abuse by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons.
The resolution marks a final personal success for Negroponte, who will move next month to Baghdad to become the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq. "We think this is an excellent resolution," he told reporters. It is "the product of a long process of negotiation and discussion."
In an earlier Security Council briefing, U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi predicted the new Iraqi interim government would face tough times ahead, despite initial indications that it has tentative support from Iraqis. "The days and weeks ahead will severely test this new government, and the solutions to Iraq's current challenges will take years, not months, to overcome," said Brahimi, who helped form the interim government.
The former Algerian foreign minister urged the new Iraqi government to make a special effort to bring opponents into the system. "It will need to reach out to those who have been vocal critics of this past year's process and engage them in dialogue," Brahimi said. "It will need to resist the temptation to characterize all who have opposed the occupation as terrorists and bitter-enders."
As negotiators toiled at the United Nations in New York, President Bush relaxed on Sea Island, Ga., where he will host the three-day G-8 summit, which begins today. Bush spent the day fishing, riding a mountain bike on the beach, planting a tree, touring facilities and receiving briefings in preparation for the summit of world leaders.
But administration officials sought to lower expectations that the U.N. resolution will boost the multinational force. In a pair of television interviews, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the most that can be hoped for is that it will reduce pressure on allies to withdraw troops from Iraq, as Spain has done.
"I don't expect that there will be a large infusion of more foreign forces," Rice told Fox News. "In fact, I think that what you will see, is that some of the countries that have had particularly difficult domestic situations, some of our coalition partners, will find this resolution makes them capable of staying the course."
Milbank reported from Georgia.