UNITED NATIONS – The United States has called for a vote this week on a new resolution that would set a Dec. 15 deadline for Iraq's Governing Council to submit a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections.
But the revised U.S. draft doesn't meet the key demand of France, Germany, Russia and Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a quick handover of power to an Iraqi provisional government within months.
President Bush's main aim in seeking a new resolution is to get more countries to contribute troops and money to stabilize and rebuild Iraq. The resolution would authorize a multinational force — sought by some potential troop contributing nations — led by the United States.
Even if there are no further changes, the resolution is likely to get the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption. France has ruled out using its veto — but some council members are concerned at the mixed message the council would send if the resolution was only approved by a slim margin.
The revised resolution would give the United Nations a larger role in Iraq's political transition to a democracy, but the world body would not be able to act independently of the U.S.-led coalition now running the country as Annan has sought.
The Bush administration revised the draft for a third time in hopes of addressing the concerns of key council nations and sending a unanimous message to Iraqis and the international community on the Security Council's vision for postwar Iraq.
The initial reactions were mixed.
Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (search) called the draft "a step in the right direction," while France's Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin (search) said more analysis was needed of the changes, which essentially call for a timetable to come up with a timetable.
China and Russia both said they hoped there would be room for changes.
"We find that the third version represents an improvement but still, if further improvements could be made, we'll be happy to support it," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya (search) said.
In Malaysia, foreign ministers at the world's biggest gathering of Islamic countries reacted coolly.
"If we look back at the Security Council debates, we must be pessimistic," Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Council summit.
"They have debated international law, the balance of power and everything else under the sun, except what Iraq needs. We hope these things will be reversed this time," he said.
Jordan, however, said the draft would be good for the Iraqi people.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, the current Security Council president, scheduled closed-door consultations on the revised draft on Tuesday morning.
Washington wants a vote ahead of a major donors conference for Iraq in Madrid, Spain on Oct. 23-24.
The United States and Britain have said Iraq must first have a constitution and hold elections before they relinquish sovereignty. France, Germany and Russia contend that a quick transfer of power to a provisional Iraqi government will bring much needed stability to the country and the United Nations can then oversee the political transition.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has said he would like to see a constitution adopted in six months, and elections perhaps six months later. Other estimates have said the process could take two years.
The new U.S. draft reaffirms Iraq's sovereignty and underlines "the temporary nature" of the occupation by the U.S.-led coalition.
It beefs up language recognizing the U.S.-appointed Governing Council and its ministers as the "principal bodies of the Iraqi interim administration, which will embody the sovereignty of the state of Iraq during the transitional period."
At the same time, however, the draft states that the Coalition Provisional Authority will remain in charge "until an internationally recognized representative government is established by the people of Iraq and assumes the responsibilities of the authority."
The text asks the United Nations to help the Iraqi people during the political transition and provide its "unique expertise" when the Governing Council holds a constitutional conference and in its preparations for elections. But the world body would still have to deal with the coalition.
Bush refused on Monday to put a timetable on the U.S. military occupation of Iraq.
"The definition of when we get out is when there is a free and peaceful Iraq based upon a constitution and elections, and obviously we'd like that to happen as quickly as possible.
"But we are mindful of rushing the process which would create the conditions for failure," he said.