Shape of UN resolution emerging

Several nations edge toward a compromise on wording but are slow to offer troops or aid.

With France assuring the United States it will not veto a new United Nations resolution on Iraq, any question about Security Council action - now expected sometime next week at the earliest - has been lifted. At least on paper, the US will get what it wants.

What remains in doubt is whether the new resolution will be enough to inspire a skeptical world to join - with troops and money - in the policing and rebuilding of Iraq, or end up a hollow gesture.

The answer to that question is probably weeks or months away, diplomats and experts say, as countries decide on their participation based on their own interests. But a world already suffering "donor fatigue" for everything from AIDS to Afghanistan is unlikely to open coffers and send in its soldiers, they add, if it senses the US wants to build an Iraq that answers to American interests.

The final text for a new resolution has yet to be submitted by US officials here. Its exact wording can still go a ways toward increasing support for international action in Iraq, diplomatic sources say, even if President Bush's speech here Tuesday made clear a US refusal to any quick - the US would say hasty - transfer of sovereignty to appointed Iraqi leaders.

"There's no question now about getting a resolution, the negotiations at this point are about what a resolution can deliver" in terms of support on the ground down the road, says one European official at the UN. "The Americans can go towards Russia, for example, with the right language."

As Bush continues meetings with world leaders to rally support for Iraq, the contours of a US-sponsored resolution are clear. Bush met Wednesday with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, and India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in New York and is to greet Russian President Vladimir Putin at Camp David Friday.

While Bush and Mr. Schröder sought to play down differences, the German leader showed no signs of backing off support for French calls for quick transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, and he made no offer to send troops to Iraq, as Germany has to Afghanistan. But he did renew an offer to help train Iraqi police.

In a draft text, the US proposes a multinational force under "unified" (read American) command to assist in "the maintenance of security and stability" in Iraq.

That wording is not controversial. In his own speech to the UN General Assembly Tuesday, French President Jacques Chirac called on the UN to "give a mandate to an international force, naturally commanded by the main troop contributor - that is the United States - to ensure the security of Iraq and all those that are helping to rebuild that country."

But the US hopes to see 15,000 or more additional foreign troops - including at least one division from a Muslim country - join the 150,000 US and foreign troops already in Iraq. Prospects for that happening ride on two factors: (1) resolution of the thorny issue of some UN control over Iraq's political transition, and (2) receptive domestic audiences, in potential donor nations, to the idea of sending troops to Iraq.

Pakistan's President Musharraf, who has been lobbied by the US to send troops, says he needs not just UN approval but also some expression from Iraqis that they want foreign Muslim troops. But some Iraqi leaders, including Ahmad Chalabi, currently filling the revolving presidency of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), reject the idea of more foreign troops on Iraqi soil.

Then there's the financial front. With the president's request for $87 billion for Iraq next year costing him support among the American people and criticism mounting in Congress, the White House is looking to pave the way to more foreign help. The US would like foreign donors to come up with $30 billion to $40 billion - a key reason Bush in his UN speech emphasized the benefits the international community would reap from a stable and prosperous Iraq. But so far, non-US sources account for barely $1.5 billion. And prospects for an international donors' conference set for Madrid in late October are dimming.

That is one reason the broader questions of Iraq's political stewardship - who should have ultimate authority in the political process and how fast the Iraqis should take over their own affairs - are so important. Countries will remain reluctant to give much financial assistance if they see it going for a US-dominated effort.

The draft US resolution calls for the IGC, the American occupying authority, and a UN representative together to develop a timetable for drafting a new constitution and holding democratic elections. While President Bush rejects any swift turnover of control to the IGC - a US-appointed, rather than elected, body - US officials here indicate some room for compromise on a timetable.

While just a week ago French officials were calling for a transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis "within a month," Mr. Chirac in his speech called for a "gradual transfer of administrative and economic responsibilities to the Iraqi institutions, according to a realistic timetable."

Still, some experts here believe the final resolution is unlikely to get anything more than an abstention from the French, in part because the US will insist that ultimate political authority remain under US-appointed administrator Paul Bremer. "The French involved in this are unwavering in their dislike for Mr. Bremer," says one French observer. "He's in control, and [seems] adamant about keeping it that way."

Yet others say the divisions over Iraq are much larger than personal dislikes, and are certain to remain, no matter what resolution is approved. "The administration is almost desperate to get substantive assistance in terms of troops and money, but for any of the countries who could provide that, the issue is not a UN resolution but the future exercise of US power," says Andrew Bacevich, director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University. "The president wants the international help in the domestic political context of today," he adds, "But I don't see the Europeans helping out there. It's more important to them to bring the US to heel."

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