UNITED NATIONS – In a slam-dunk vote, the U.N. Security Council (search) approved Thursday a U.S.-drafted resolution to help reconstruct Iraq.
All 15 Security Council members — including Syria — voted in favor of the measure to authorize a multinational force under U.S. command and call for troop contributions from other countries. The measure also seeks "substantial pledges" from the 191 United Nations member states.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) commended the council members for having reached a "significant agreement on what obviously is an important resolution to address a complex situation in Iraq.
"The process has been difficult but 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," he said.
President Bush also welcomed the vote.
"The world has an opportunity -- and a responsibility -- to help the Iraqi people build a nation that is stable, secure, and free," Bush said in a statement. "This resolution will help marshal even more international support for the development of a new, democratic Iraq."
Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was happy with the vote, adding that it sets the stage for next week's donors conference in Madrid, where the member states will be asked for money for reconstruction.
"I think this is a great achievement for the Security Council in coming together," Powell said in Washington. "We have come together to help the Iraqi people and put all of our differences of the past in the past."
Earlier in the day, Germany, Russia and France announced that they would back the resolution — a dramatic shift for the three European countries, who bitterly opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
"The resolution has been improved throughout the negotiation process, thus allowing us, in a spirit of unity, to support it as a step in the right direction of the restoration of Iraq with the participation of the United Nations," the three countries said in a statement of support for the resolution, obtained by Reuters.
But the statement said the resolution should have gone further on the role of the United Nations in Iraq's political process and the pace of the transfer of responsibilities to the Iraqi people.
It added that the conditions of the resolution still are not enough to their liking to make a military commitment or further financial contributions beyond those countries' present commitments.
The three nations refused in March to give support for a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force to oust deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and had differed with the United States over the timing of returning the Arab country to full sovereignty.
"We agreed that the resolution is really an important step in the right direction," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said after a 45-minute conference call Thursday morning with presidents Jacques Chirac of France and Vladimir Putin of Russia. "Many things have been included from what we proposed. This led us ... to jointly agree to the resolution."
Still, U.S. officials expressed hope the resolution would mean additional European Union funds for Iraq's reconstruction.
"Really, the goal is to try to get something more than a piece of paper, to try to get money and troops. We hope the resolution combined with the upcoming donor conference will help," one U.S. official said.
The compromises appeared to be part of an effort to send a more united message on the importance of returning sovereignty to Iraq.
"Above all the unity of the international community must be preserved as much as possible," Chirac spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said.
However, she added that the three countries "are very far from being able to commit themselves financially or militarily" to the reconstruction of Iraq.
A Boost to Security?
After the vote at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked what the passage of the resolution meant for troop numbers in the region.
"It's a good thing that it passed. It will have a favorable effect in some countries that indicated they would prefer to have an additional U.N. Security Council resolution. Which countries and how many troops it will affect will remain to be seen," Rumsfeld said, adding that Washington is in discussion with five to seven countries on exactly how many troops they will donate.
Asked whether more international troops would boost security, Rumsfeld said, "I'd like to be able to say yes but I can't in my own mind indicate in what ways it might. It certainly is a plus not a minus but I couldn't draw a line between the resolution and security."
Saying, "I don't see this vote as opening the door to troops," Powell would not put a number on how many troops each country should or should not contribute, but said he hoped France, Germany and Russia would be helpful.
"This isn't a matter of helping us," Powell said. "It's a matter of helping Iraqis in need."
A Wednesday vote had been delayed so the leaders of Russia, France and Germany could decide Thursday morning whether to back the resolution.
After rejecting the French-Russian-German demand for a timetable, the United States honed in on Russia, which has been more moderate, in its search for votes.
Washington made some concessions on amendments to get Moscow on board.
The amendments give Annan greater scope to participate in the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution and the political transition, and state for the first time that the mandate of the multinational force authorized by the resolution will expire when an Iraqi government is elected.
"I have no doubt that we all look forward to the earliest possible establishment of a government that will turn Iraqi into full sovereignty," Annan said after the vote.
Nations including India, Pakistan and Turkey have said it would be easier to commit troops if they served under a U.N. mandate.
In Iraq, the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (search) welcomed the resolution as a step toward bringing stability to the war-battered country and ending violence against the American-led occupation.
"We welcome pumping more funds into Iraq from the donor states and the other states in order to reconstruct the Iraqi economy and combat unemployment," said Mouwafak al-Rabii. "This can be one of the successful means to dry out the cores of terror."
The Bush administration initially focused on getting more countries to provide troops and money to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq. France, Russia and Germany focused on the quick restoration of Iraq's sovereignty.
The United States and Britain never wavered in their assessment that sovereignty can't be relinquished until Iraq drafts a new constitution and holds elections.
The coalition also said they would stay until stability is reached, and no longer. U.S. and coalition forces, as well as Iraqis and others helping coalition efforts to rebuild the country, have come under attack almost daily from supposed Saddam loyalists. These insurgents have also attacked infrastructures such as oil pipelines.
"We have to understand, we have very high stakes but we also have to understand this is a several-year process, this is not something that's going to be achieved in a few months," former Ambassador Dennis Ross told Fox News.
Also included were new provisions urging the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority "to return governing responsibilities and authorities to the people of Iraq as soon as practicable" and calling on the Iraqi Governing Council to provide the Security Council with a timetable for drafting a new constitution and holding elections by Dec. 15.
Fox News' Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.