UNITED NATIONS – Four key nations proposed major changes Wednesday to the U.S.-British draft resolution on Iraq (search), moves that would give the new government control over the Iraqi army and police and require the multinational force to consult on military actions except for self-defense.
A three-page proposal by China — which diplomats said was supported in large part by Russia, France and Germany — would give the interim government that takes over on June 30 the right to decide whether foreign forces remain in the country and limit the multinational mandate to January 2005.
Both changes would bolster the sovereign powers of the Iraqi interim government and extend far greater authority than the resolution introduced to the U.N. Security Council (search) on Monday by Britain and the United States.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said he raised major ideas in the Chinese proposal during a closed-door discussion in the council Wednesday where other members also suggested changes in the U.S.-British draft. Wang distributed the paper on Monday and it was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (search) said that Hussain al-Shahristani, mentioned in recent days as a candidate for the post of prime minister, took himself out of the competition Wednesday.
A statement released by his spokesman at the United Nations said that there was no doubt "Mr. Shahristani could serve his country well in a number of positions in government."
"Mr. Shahrestani, however, has himself clarified that he would prefer to serve his country in other ways," the statement said.
The proposal would require the multinational force to "consult with the interim government in respect of military actions except for self-defense." These issues are not mentioned in the U.S.-British draft.
The proposal would also determine "that the interim government of Iraq shall exercise full sovereignty, in the political, economic, security, judicial and diplomatic areas, including the power to control and dispose all the natural and economic resources, sign economic cooperation agreements and contracts, and enjoy judicial independence and the power to administer prisons in Iraq."
The U.S.-British draft endorses the formation of a sovereign interim Iraqi government that will "assume the responsibility and authority" for governing the country by June 30, but doesn't spell out its powers.
It also makes no mention of the control of prisons, a highly sensitive issue following revelations of physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad which have sparked an international outcry.
The U.S.-British draft reaffirms authorization for the multinational force currently in Iraq to continue to maintain security and stability, under a unified command. It would review the force's mandate in 12 months or at the request of the transitional government which will be elected by early next year.
A senior State Department official noted that the administration has said that U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraq if it is asked to do so by Iraqi authorities.
The official said no one can demand the departure of the multinational force except for the Baghdad government.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said he raised major ideas in the Chinese proposal during a closed-door discussion in the council Wednesday where other members also suggested changes in the U.S.-British draft. Wang distributed the paper on Monday.
Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger called it "an excellent paper because it raises a lot of questions that we have raised, too, and it makes a lot of reasonable proposals that we support." France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said, "My understanding is that they are supporting our ideas and we are supporting their ideas."
The Chinese proposal and others expected in the coming days will frame the upcoming debate on a new U.N. resolution.
That debate will focus on security and sovereignty — especially how much power the new interim government will have and its control of foreign military forces on the ground in Iraq once it takes over June 30.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte called the U.S.-British draft "a good resolution" that could be "fine-tuned" but doesn't need to be rewritten. But many other council members have called it a good starting point, and the Chinese proposal and comments by the French, German and Russian ambassadors clearly indicate they want substantive changes.
Council experts are to meet Thursday to work on the text and Negroponte said the United States will study all proposals carefully, "and where possible, make every effort to take them into account."