WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is hoping a new U.N. resolution will induce fence-sitting governments — maybe even some Arab states — to send peacekeeping troops to Iraq.
So far, though, the United States has few takers.
"It remains to be seen," Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) said Tuesday.
The uncertainty over troops underscores one of the many pieces of unfinished business as the United States begins the final push toward handing over political control to an interim Iraqi government by June 30. The White House said Tuesday the new Iraqi leaders will be named by early next week.
A senior administration official in Baghdad said the list had been narrowed, but that no final decisions have been made on the names of the Iraqi interim government.
"We're down to a handful of names for each of the positions and in some cases a smaller number than that," the official said, on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the United States and Britain appeared at odds over how much control Iraq's caretaker government will have over American-led military operations after the handover.
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) said Iraqis should have the final say over any major U.S.-led military operations. The "final political control as to whether you go into a place like Fallujah in a particular way — that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government," Blair said.
But Powell said U.S.-led troops will do "what is necessary to protect themselves."
Iraq's new government will have a consulting and coordinating role over U.S. troop operations, but that role still needs to be defined, said the administration official in Baghdad. The issue would be the first one addressed by the United States and members of the interim government once its leaders are named, the official said.
Powell said several countries have said they would consider sending troops.
For months the administration has publicly urged other nations to join the 32 countries with troops already in Iraq. While a dozen or so were said to be weighing a positive response, only Pakistan so far has indicated it might go along.
On Monday, Pakistan said it was considering the U.S. request, but only for a special force to protect U.N. facilities in Iraq.
By contrast, three countries — Spain, the Dominican Republic and Honduras — have decided to withdraw their troops from Iraq.
Denmark, a key U.S. ally, apparently has decided not to bolt. The parliament is due to vote June 2, but the Danish foreign ministry said two weeks ago that the 500 Danish soldiers on duty in southern Iraq would remain there an additional six months.
Gen. John Abizaid (search), commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East, has said he favors the inclusion of more international troops, especially more Muslim troops.
"For example, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia — they all have very capable and very professional forces that could be added to the stability equation" once Iraq regains its political sovereignty, Abizaid said last month.
But last Sunday, Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said "the Arab countries were not part of the war waged on Iraq." And so, he said, "I can't see participation in the near future."
Britain, Italy, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania are among the U.S. allies that have contributed troops to the U.S.-led effort to stabilize Iraq.
Several allies, especially France and Germany, are conspicuous by their absence. The two NATO countries opposed the war from the outset and France on Tuesday repeated its strong refusal to ever send in soldiers.
Whether they would remain on the sidelines if a NATO force was sent to Iraq was not clear.
"I am not sure yet what NATO might or might not do," Powell said.
Apart from ideological differences, the risks to troops make participating a difficult step for many countries to take.
The United States has borne the brunt of the casualties. Of the 155,000 coalition troops in Iraq, some 135,000 are American. The Pentagon is struggling to maintain even that level, and some critics of the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq have complained that too few U.S. troops have been committed.
As of Monday, 797 U.S. military personnel had died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq last year, according to the Defense Department.
The British military has reported 60 deaths; Italy, 20; Spain, eight; Bulgaria, six; Ukraine, five; Thailand, two; Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia and Poland, one each.