U.N. Reaction to U.S. Iraq Proposal Varies

The 15 Security Council (search) nations had widely differing reactions to a new U.N. resolution (search) proposed by the United States to attract more money and troops for Iraq: France, Germany and Syria criticized it while supporters of the Iraq war welcomed it as a positive step.

But even France and Germany called the U.S. proposal a basis for negotiations, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) said he was ready to listen to their suggestions and consider any other "constructive input."

As council members digested the U.S. draft — which some countries only received on Thursday — it was clear that the United States faced tough negotiations on several key issues.

The U.S. draft, in Powell's words, puts "the Security Council into the game." But it doesn't relinquish U.S. political and military control of the country.

France, Germany, Russia and other council members want the U.S.-led coalition to transfer political responsibility to an Iraqi government as quickly as possible. Many council nations are also demanding a much stronger U.N. role, and France would like to see the United Nations replace the United States as Iraq's interim administrator. Syria also wants the United Nations to command the U.N.-authorized multinational force envisioned in the resolution — not the United States.

The five veto-wielding permanent council members — the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China — met for 1 1/2 hours Thursday afternoon to discuss the draft.

"We are going to negotiate the text," said France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere. Russia's U.N. Ambassador called the session a "friendly discussion."

An informal meeting of all 15 council ambassadors was scheduled Friday, and talks were also taking place in capitals. Powell said Wednesday he would assess where negotiations were early next week "and push it as aggressively as we can."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad changed attitudes at the United Nations and is allowing the Bush administration to seek more support.

"I think we had a breakthrough, a sad one, but the bombing of the U.N. headquarters I think changed the atmosphere," he said.

The U.S. draft resolution invites the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to cooperate with the United Nations and U.S. officials in Baghdad to produce "a timetable and program for the drafting of a new constitution for Iraq and for the holding of democratic elections."

But it contains no timeframe of when this should happen, and it leaves the key decision in the hands of the Governing Council, which has taken months just to form a Cabinet. The United States believes the Iraqis must remain in charge of this process — but France and Germany want more Security Council control.

"We are naturally ready to study it in the most positive manner," French President Jacques Chirac said after meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "But we are quite far removed from what we believe is the priority objective, which is the transfer of political responsibility to an Iraqi government as quickly as possible."

As for the U.N. role, besides helping with the timeline, the resolution asks the U.N. representative in Iraq to facilitate a "national dialogue and consensus building" to promote the political transition. But it doesn't provide for an expanded U.N. role in the security or economic areas, except for reports at least every six months to the Security Council on the efforts of the multinational force.

"We have always asked for a central role of the United Nations in all fields," Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger noted. "It's a good working basis but it certainly can be improved."

Russia's Foreign Ministry reaffirmed Moscow's push for a quick transfer from the U.S.-backed interim administration in Iraq to a sovereign government to help restore peace.

But in a strong signal that Moscow was edging closer to Washington than to France and Germany — which it joined in opposing the war — Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Thursday that Russia may send peacekeepers to Iraq as part of an international force.

The U.S.-Russian tilt was bolstered by Security Council diplomats who said Moscow was working closely with Washington on the U.S. draft. And on Friday, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said he was giving the measure cautious support.

"Preliminarily speaking, I can say that this initiative deserves attention since the content of the proposed resolution reflects those principles which Russia has consistently championed," the foreign minister said.

China was also against the war. But in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said Thursday that the U.S. offer to share Iraq's postwar reconstruction was in line with the objectives of China, which has "actively participated in the endeavor."

Council supporters of the war — Britain, Bulgaria and Spain — rallied behind the resolution.