U.S., Britain Circulate New Iraq Resolution

The United States and Britain circulated a revised resolution on post-occupation Iraq Tuesday that would give the new interim government control over the Iraqi army and police and end the mandate for the multinational force (search) by January 2006 at the latest.

The new draft was introduced at a council meeting just hours after the full composition of the interim government was announced in Baghdad (search). Russia, France, Germany and other council nations have said they want to see whether this government is acceptable to the more than 20 million Iraqis before they adopt a resolution.

Many council members also want to consult with the new leadership on the text, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari (search) was heading to New York to press the council for full sovereignty for the country.

The new draft states that the interim government will be "fully sovereign" and reaffirms the right of the Iraqi people to determine their political future freely, control their natural resources and coordinate international assistance.

While the draft notes "that the presence of the multinational force in Iraq is at the request of the incoming interim government," it doesn't specifically give the new leaders the right to ask the force to leave.

Instead, it anticipates that the incoming government will make a formal request "to retain the presence of the multinational force" and leaves room for the date of that letter to be included in the resolution.

The new interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi (search), said Tuesday the multinational force will be asked to stay on and promised that Iraq's security forces will be a "pivotal partner" with U.S. and other coalition troops in the fight to restore security to Iraq.

The new draft does put an expiration date on the mandate for the multinational force -- the installation of a constitutionally elected government, which isn't expected until December 2005 or January 2006.

It calls for a review of the force's mandate in 12 months or at the request of the transitional government that will take power after elections, expected in January 2005. It also declares the council's readiness to terminate the mandate at the request of the transitional government.

"We've made it clear that the multinational force mandate isn't open ended, but will end at a given moment once the political process finishes," said Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry.

Both British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) have said their forces will leave if asked by the interim government.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday "the revised draft underscores what we've said publicly, that the United States will respect decisions of the sovereign Iraqi government regarding the presence of the multinational force."

The revised draft starts out with a new declaration, stating that the council is "marking a new phase in Iraq's transition to a democratically elected government, and looking forward to the end of the occupation and the assumption of authority by a fully sovereign interim government of Iraq by June 30, 2004."

It takes note of Tuesday morning's "dissolution of the Governing Council of Iraq" following the announcement of the interim government, and welcomes progress in Iraq's political transition.

The new draft "welcomes efforts by the incoming interim government of Iraq to develop Iraqi security forces."

It states clearly for the first time that the Iraqi forces "will operate under the authority of the interim government of Iraq and its successors," and that the Iraqi police will be under the control of the Interior Ministry.

The resolution also states that the Iraqi forces "will progressively play a greater role and ultimately assume responsibility for the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq."

The language on the U.N. role was also changed to address concerns of some council members that Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) didn't have enough flexibility to determine when U.N. staff return to Iraq. He pulled all U.N. international staff out of Iraq in October following two bombings at U.N. headquarters and a spate of attacks.

The draft now states that "as circumstances permit," the United Nations will play "a leading role" in assisting in the convening of a national conference to select a Consultative Council, in the electoral process, and in promoting a national dialogue and consensus on the drafting of a new constitution.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (search), who helped in the formation of the interim government, is remaining in Baghdad to work on the national conference, which is expected next month.