UNITED NATIONS – France, Russia and Germany urged the United States and Britain on Friday to ensure that the move toward self-government in Iraq includes all Iraqis opposed to violence, neighboring countries and the United Nations (search).
The three countries — which opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq — also supported the idea of a conference that would bring together a broad spectrum of Iraqi groups, along with Iraq's neighbors and international representatives to support the return of sovereignty.
Russia said the conference could be held outside Iraq because of security concerns and proposed that it set specific steps to implement the political timetable agreed to by the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council (search) on Nov. 15.
The views of the key Security Council (search) members were spelled out at an open meeting after U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte (search) and British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry briefed members on the timetable and coalition efforts to improve security and give Iraqis more responsibility for running the country.
While France, Russia and Germany recognized the coalition's progress toward restoring stability to Iraq, they made clear that the political process must be broadened significantly to give the new Iraqi government national and international legitimacy.
And they want that process included in any new resolution. The United States had hoped for quick Security Council approval of a resolution simply endorsing the new agreement, according to U.N. diplomats, but the French, Russian and German proposals would almost certainly entail lengthy negotiations.
The timetable calls for the coalition to hand over power to an Iraqi transitional government by June 30, though U.S. troops would stay beyond that date — not as an occupation force, but at the invitation of the new government.
The transitional government would organize elections by March 15, 2005, for a constitutional convention to draft a constitution that would be ratified in a referendum. A new Iraqi government would be elected by Dec. 31, 2005.
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said "it is a matter of urgency to rebuild consensus in Iraq, at the regional level, and within the international community."
First, all Iraqis who oppose or who have given up violence must be involved in the political process, the French ambassador said.
"It is also essential to involve and to make accountable all of the states of the region, without exception, to enable Iraq to become part of the region once again," de La Sabliere said. "It is essential that the United Nations be allowed, with full independence, to lend its legitimacy and its support to support the transition in Iraq at each of the stages."
Germany's U.N. Ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, Russian U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov, and China's U.N. Ambassador, Wang Guangya, echoed the importance of a strong U.N. role.
"We need to involve in the process of settlement as many Iraqis as possible, regional countries, and give the U.N. a real chance," Lavrov said.
Negroponte said the United States supports "a vital role" for the United Nations in Iraq and would welcome the return of U.N. international staff who were pulled out of Baghdad after two bombings at U.N. headquarters and a spate of attacks.
But the role he envisioned didn't go beyond existing Security Council resolutions.
Negroponte said "efforts are going to be made to ensure the largest possible degree of inclusiveness" in the process of choosing a transitional national assembly. The United States will also examine the proposal for an international conference, a proposal which it would consider "very seriously" if the Iraqis request it, he said.