UNITED NATIONS – The United States introduced a resolution Wednesday that would establish a U.N. mission in Iraq and welcome the Iraqi Governing Council (search) as "an important step" toward the formation of a true government -- but it faced strong opposition from Syria.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte (search) called for a Thursday vote after closed-door consultations, but Syria's U.N. Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe, the current council president, said, "We will see whether we are able to vote tomorrow or not."
The Arab League said last week that its members, including Syria, would not recognize the Governing Council and would instead wait until Iraq is led by an elected government.
The United States reached agreement on the text with the other permanent Security Council members -- Russia, China, Britain and France -- before the draft was presented Wednesday to the 10 non-permanent council members, who are elected for two-year terms, U.N. diplomats said.
Last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) chided council members for failing to say anything about the 25-member Governing Council after three of its members addressed a Security Council meeting July 22. The council should formally establish a U.N. mission to oversee U.N. efforts to help rebuild Iraq and establish a democratic government, he said.
That call pushed the Security Council's veto-wielding members to agree on a draft, diplomats said Wednesday -- though sensitivities are still strong on the council over the U.S.-led occupation and postwar U.N. role in Iraq more than four months after the bitterly divided Security Council refused to back the invasion of Iraq.
The draft resolution "welcomes the establishment of the broadly representative Governing Council of Iraq on July 13, 2003, as an important step towards the formation by the people of Iraq of an internationally recognized, representative government that will exercise the sovereignty of Iraq."
It would also establish the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq for one year to support the secretary-general in carrying out the U.N.'s responsibilities in the country.
The United States had been pressing for a statement welcoming the Governing Council. But only last week, council diplomats said Washington was not convinced of the need for a U.N. mission because Iraq already has the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council.
"We are responding to the secretary-general," Negroponte said Wednesday, noting that Annan's suggestion was discussed and supported by the U.S. government and the coalition.
The U.N. operation in Iraq is currently run by Annan's special representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The U.N. Assistance Mission will provide a structure for the U.N.'s operations in Iraq. Annan has proposed the mission include more than 300 civilian staff dealing with humanitarian, political, reconstruction and other issues.
Wehbe said Syria strongly supports a U.N. mission.
"We are supporting the United Nations' vital role to be more vital," he said.
The draft resolution introduced Wednesday makes no mention of a broader U.N. mandate in Iraq sought by France, Germany, India and other countries before they would consider sending troops to the country.
Annan reiterated last week that he would support a new U.N. resolution with a broader mandate to get the world to pull together and help stabilize the country. But the secretary-general said, "The membership are not ready to move on it yet."