UNITED NATIONS – The United States picked up important support from China and Pakistan for its new Iraq resolution (search) late Wednesday, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted "a successful vote."
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte (search) agreed to postpone Wednesday night's scheduled vote so the leaders of France, Russia and Germany could discuss the final draft and decide whether or not to support the resolution. He said the council would meet at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday to vote.
"What I want to stress is that there is real movement toward greater consensus in the council on the basis of our draft text," said Negroponte, the current Security Council (search) president.
Washington hopes the new resolution will generate more troops and money for Iraq and spur the Iraqis to set a timetable for adopting a constitution and holding elections. It stresses that "the day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly."
The resolution had been expected to get at least the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption but with Pakistan saying it will vote "yes" and China making positive noises as well, it was likely to get at least 11 votes.
Only the votes of Russia, France, Germany and Syria appeared to be in doubt. Council diplomats said the United States honed in on Russia -- agreeing to three amendments Moscow wanted in the latest text circulated Wednesday night -- in hopes of winning its support. Washington hopes for German support as well, and doesn't rule out French approval.
The new draft -- the fifth U.S. proposal -- doesn't include the key demand in a package of amendments the three opponents of the U.S.-led war submitted on Tuesday -- a timetable for the transfer of power to Iraqis.
But Washington did agree to give U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) greater scope to participate in the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution and the political transition, and to state for the first time that the mandate of the multinational force authorized by the resolution would expire when an Iraqi government is elected. The inclusion of these three amendments sought by Moscow fueled speculation that Russia will vote "yes."
"We are satisfied that these specific amendments were accepted by the sponsor," said Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov. "But the original amendments were introduced by France, Germany, and Russia collectively. They were endorsed at the top level. So the final instructions will come from them."
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will be in Kuala Lumpur, scheduled a teleconference at 6 a.m. EDT Thursday with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Lavrov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the resolution should take into account the views of Moscow, Berlin and Paris "so that the unity of the world community in tackling the Iraq crisis is maintained," according to the Austria Press Agency.
Powell embarked on a final round of diplomacy Wednesday morning, talking by telephone to the presidents of Pakistan and Angola, the foreign ministers of China, Russia and Britain and twice to Dominique de Villepin of France.
Council diplomats said the United States agreed to delay the vote after Powell and Ivanov spoke again Wednesday night.
"A great deal of progress has been made over the last 24 hours, and especially today," Powell told reporters in Washington. "I think that we will have a successful vote on the resolution."
"We have been listening to our friends" and the administration is open to compromise while preserving "our firm positions," he said.
Several wavering council nations backed Powell's assessment of progress.
"I think our attitude has become more and more positive," said China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, who had supported the French-Russian-German amendments. "If a vote is taken I hope that there will be more members supporting this draft."
Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram, whose country was considered a swing vote, said: "We will support the text despite some reservations on certain provisions."
Whatever the vote, the council remains divided on how fast to transfer power to Iraqis and who should oversee Iraq's political transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.
The United States and Britain insist that sovereignty can't be relinquished until Iraq drafts a new constitution and holds elections. Their refusal to set a timetable clearly rankled.
France's de Villepin, whose country has led calls for the United States to hand over power by the end of the year, said Wednesday that sovereignty must be returned to the Iraqi people "as soon as possible."
"Let us not underestimate the ability of the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their own destiny," he said at a lecture in London filmed for the British Broadcasting Corp. "Reform has to come from within."
But the United States didn't change its mind on the French-Russian-German proposal that Annan and the Security Council be given a role in establishing a timetable for transferring power, along with the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council.
It stuck with its original text that calls on the coalition "to return governing responsibilities and authorities to the people of Iraq as soon as practicable."
When the United States first talked about a new resolution six weeks ago, the primary aim was to get more countries to provide troops and money to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq.
Those aims still hold, and the resolution would authorize a multinational force under U.S. command and call for troop contributions as well as "substantial pledges" from the 191 U.N. member states at a donors conference in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 23-24.
But the debate and focus of the resolution shifted to the transfer of power from the British and American occupation -- which has become a target of Iraqi resistance -- to the Iraqis themselves.