UNITED NATIONS – Circulated by U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte (search) to key Security Council members Wednesday night, a new U.S. resolution calls for a strengthened U.N. role in rebuilding Iraq and a step-by-step transfer of authority to Iraqis but gives no timetable for the handover.
According to a draft of the document obtained by The Associated Press, the new measure underscores that the American-led occupation is temporary and urges Iraqis to determine a date for a transfer of power.
"The day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly," the resolution says.
The United States wasted no time after it took over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council (search) on Wednesday in calling a meeting to distribute the revised text to the other four veto-wielding council nations -- Russia, China, France and Britain.
"As far as time is concerned, we would like to move expeditiously on it," Negroponte said. "We'd also like to see the resolution in place, if possible, well in advance of the upcoming donors conference in Madrid on Oct. 24" for Iraq (search).
The U.S. presidency was a stroke of good timing as Washington campaigns for approval of the new resolution, aimed at getting more countries to contribute troops and money to Iraq.
The new draft -- like the previous draft -- would transform the U.S.-led coalition force into a multinational force. The United States, as leader of the force, would report to the Security Council at least every six months.
The new draft spells out that the force will ensure "necessary conditions" for adopting a constitution and holding elections as well as protect U.N. offices, the U.S.-apointed Iraqi interim government and other key institutions.
It reiterates the call to the 191 U.N. member states to contribute military forces and to increase financial aid. It makes a similar appeal to international financial institutions.
The U.S. decision to give the United Nations a larger role in Iraq's reconstruction, and to make clear that the United States had no intention of a long-term occupation, was designed to attract the support of France, Germany, Russia and other Security Council members.
There was no immediate reaction, though one council diplomat said the sense was that Russia and China thought the resolution was in the right direction.
France and Germany have called for a quick transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis. Paris says it should be possible by the end of the year. Many countries have also asked for an expanded U.N. role in overseeing Iraq's transformation to a democracy.
Some potential troop contributors have refused to commit soldiers unless a multinational force is deployed under a U.N. umbrella.
Pakistan, a possible troop contributor, would like the multinational force to have "an identity which does not make it seem to be an extension of the occupation force, of the coalition force," Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the new plan Wednesday by telephone with British foreign secretary Jack Straw and foreign ministers Ana Palacio of Spain, Joschka Fischer of Germany, Igor Ivanov of Russia and Dominique de Villepin of France.
Last week, Powell proposed a six-month timeframe for adoption of a constitution, and perhaps another six months for elections and sovereignty to be transferred. But the revised resolution has no timetable because Washington wanted to give the Iraqi Governing Council some flexibility, council diplomats said.
The resolution reiterated the U.S. call for the Iraqi Governing Council to cooperate with the U.S. and U.N. officials in drawing up a timetable for drafting a new constitution and holding democratic elections.
It urges the council to complete the process of drafting of a constitution "quickly."
The draft "affirms that the administration of Iraq will be progressively undertaken by the evolving structures of the Iraqi interim administration, and to that end, calls upon the authority to continue its practice of transferring as quickly as practicable effective and substantial executive responsibility."
On U.N. involvement, the U.S. plan calls for the United Nations to "strengthen its vital role in Iraq" in providing humanitarian relief, promoting economic reconstruction and rebuilding institutions for representative government. It encourages Secretary-General Kofi Annan to consider providing assistance to help draft the constitution, conduct elections, reform the judiciary and civil service, and train an Iraqi police force.
Negroponte said the fact that the United States has the council presidency, which rotates monthly among the 15 members, at a time it is pressing for the Iraq resolution was a coincidence: "That's just the way the ball happened to bounce in this particular case."
Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser agreed.
"I think it's good. It will focus the council, and I have no doubt Negroponte will act as president of the council with absolute impartiality in his role as president of the council ... but forcefully represent the view of his government."
The United States first circulated a working draft in late August, and Washington received major amendments from France, Germany, Russia and Syria -- all opponents of the U.S.-led war.
President Bush and Powell lobbied for support last week at the United Nations. Powell claimed the administration had begun to close ranks with critics on a resolution.
The drastic cutback in U.N. staff in Iraq following two bombings of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad raises concerns about how much the United Nations will be able to do -- and how quickly.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.