UNITED NATIONS – The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday aimed at attracting more troops and money to help stabilize Iraq (search) and speed its independence -- a diplomatic victory for Washington after the bitter dispute over the war.
The resolution's success hinges on whether it generates additional funds for Iraq's reconstruction at next week's donors conference in Madrid, Spain (search), and whether countries decide to send new forces to Iraq.
In a dramatic shift, France, Germany and Russia -- key opponents of the U.S.-led war against Iraq -- supported the resolution. But they immediately ruled out any new military or financial help, reflecting ongoing concern about the speed with which Washington would transfer authority to Iraqis.
The resolution gives U.N. authorization to a multinational force under unified command that will be led by the United States and calls for troop contributions as well as "substantial pledges" from the 191 U.N. member states at the Madrid donors conference on Oct. 23-24.
The 15-0 vote was a coup for Secretary of State Colin Powell (search), who called the outcome "a great achievement" -- although he cautioned that the resolution should not be seen as "opening the door to troops."
Powell led six weeks of intense U.S. lobbying and worked the phones from the early hours Wednesday. When he launched his final diplomatic blitz, U.S. officials were concerned the resolution might get only the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption.
A day earlier, France, Russia and Germany failed to persuade the United States to include in the resolution a timetable for restoring Iraq's sovereignty. Instead, the draft calls for the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council -- in cooperating with the coalition and a U.N. representative -- to provide the Security Council by Dec. 15 with a timetable for drafting a new constitution and holding elections.
The resolution makes clear that the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq is temporary and states that "the day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly." It urges the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority now running the country to let Iraqis govern "as soon as practicable."
The United States also won backing from China and Pakistan, and finally and most surprisingly, from Syria, the only Arab nation on the Security Council and a staunch opponent of the U.S.-led war.
Not wishing to revive the bitter divisions over the war itself, virtually all council members said they wanted council unity on the next steps in Iraq, even if the resolution didn't meet all their demands.
"The outcome is a clear demonstration of the will of all the members of the Security Council to place the interests of the Iraqi people above all other considerations," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said after the vote.
Germany, France and Russia announced earlier Thursday that they would vote in favor of the resolution in a bid to bring international solidarity to the reconstruction effort. France made clear there was concern about escalating violence and terrorism -- not just in Iraq but in the Middle East as a whole.
"We all see a spiral of violence and terrorism that is increasing in Iraq," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking to reporters at a summit meeting of European leaders in Brussels, Belgium. "It is important to send a message to the Iraqi people ... that we all want the best conditions for the reconstruction of the country."
In a joint statement after the council vote, the three European nations said the resolution failed to give the United Nations a bigger role in Iraq's political transition or speed up the transfer of authority to Iraqis.
Therefore, "the conditions are not created for us to envisage any military commitment and no further financial contributions beyond our present engagement," the French-German-Russian statement said.
When the United States embarked on its effort to get a new resolution, the focus was on troops and money. But under pressure from the French, Germans, Russians and others, it quickly shifted to the restoration of sovereignty to Iraqis. The United States responded by setting the Dec. 15 deadline, making clear its stay in Iraq is temporary, and giving the United Nations more of a political role.
References in the resolution to a U.N. role are conditioned with the words "as circumstances permit."
Annan pulled out all but a few dozen international staffers after two bombings at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in a month. He has made clear that he would not risk sending U.N. staff back unless the United Nations is given a major role in Iraq's transition to a democracy.
Annan told the council he would do his "utmost" to implement the resolution, bearing in mind "the safety and security" of U.N. staff.
Mouwafak al-Raabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, welcomed the possibility of "the presence of more international troops ... and pumping more funds into Iraq ... in order to reconstruct the Iraqi economy and combat unemployment."
"This can be one of the successful means to dry out the cores of terror," he said.
Syria's U.N. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad said his country decided to join the consensus after consulting Germany, France, Russia, China and other non-permanent council members as well as Japan, which is not on the council.
"We have decided that it is in the interests of the Iraqi people that we take such a positive stand," he said, expressing hope that the resolution will "accelerate the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis" even though it doesn't meet "all our expectations."
Hours earlier, however, Syrian President Bashar Assad, speaking in Malaysia, launched a sharp attack on the U.S.-led war and ridiculed the "liberation" of that country.