UNITED NATIONS - The United States and Britain sought U.N. backing for their post-occupation plans for Iraq, proposing a new resolution Monday that would endorse the June 30 handover of power and authorize a U.S.-led multinational force to keep the peace.
But the draft doesn't answer the key question of how much say Iraq's new government - which in theory holds full sovereignty - will have over the operation of international or even Iraqi armed forces.
U.S. officials will be under pressure in negotiations over the draft to give the Iraqis more influence. Germany has said it wants to create an Iraqi National Security Council that would give Iraqis a seat at the table in security decisions.
And France said it wants a timetable for handing the Iraqi government control over Iraqi police and security forces, which for now would remain under American control, though with Iraqi commanders.
The draft urges nations to send troops for an international force in Iraq - but there were major questions whether other countries would respond with significant numbers.
It would also give the interim Iraqi government control over oil revenues currently put into a development fund run by the U.S.-led coalition and over funds in the oil-for-food program.
Though the U.S.-led occupation will end on June 30 and an interim Iraqi government will be installed, more than 135,000 U.S. forces and 19,000 troops from Britain and other nations will remain.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Monday that the Bush administration envisions that, under the U.N. resolution, the multinational force would remain under the control of U.S. military commanders.
But the relationship between the multinational force and the new Iraqi government will be spelled out in an exchange of letters with the interim government, once it is created, senior British officials said.
Britain hopes the letters would detail the creation of a National Security Committee, made up of the Iraqi defense and interior ministers and the commander and deputy commander of the multinational force, and chaired by the Iraqi prime minister, an official in London said.
Significant military operations, such as April's offensive in the city of Fallujah, could not be taken without the committee's approval - thus giving Iraqis a veto, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Germany has called for the creation of such a committee, saying it would prevent the Iraqis from being forced into conflicts they don't want.
Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said the U.S.-British draft was "a good basis for discussion."
But Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the new Iraqi government "must be able to make decisions over security issues or else it won't be truly sovereign."
The resolution does not say whether the Iraqis would be able to ask U.S. and other international troops to leave the country. It states "the importance of the consent of the sovereign government of Iraq for the presence of the multinational force."
But it only authorizes the "Transitional Government of Iraq" to review the mandate of the multinational force. That government won't be chosen until after elections planned to take place by Jan. 31.
The draft resolution was an attempt by the Bush administration to win international backing for its post-occupation plans in Iraq, which have been severely shaken by violence in the country.
With his approval ratings sinking after repeated setbacks in Iraq, President Bush is also seeking to rebuild support at home. He is to deliver a nationally televised speech Monday night aimed at convincing U.S. voters he has a political and security blueprint that can stabilize Iraq.
The resolution would:
- endorse the formation of a sovereign Interim Government, to take office by June 30 and timetable to hold elections for a transitional national assembly by Jan. 31;
- give the interim government control of a fund into which oil revenues are deposited, currently controlled by the U.S.-led coalition. An international body will continue monitoring use of the fund.
- reaffirm the authority of the U.S.-led multinational force "to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq including by preventing and deterring terrorism."
The resolution was introduced Monday at a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Chile's U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Munoz said he was "relatively optimistic" that differences could be overcome. "I don't see major disagreements ... although there are points to be refined," he said.
But France said it seeks a clear timeline in the resolution for handing the Iraqi government power over Iraqi armed forces.
"The transfer of power to the new (Iraqi) government must be a complete, sincere and clear one," French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told reporters. The Iraqi government should "in time" have "authority over police forces and the Iraqi army."
Washington will not seek a vote on the resolution for a week or two, until U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi finishes his work on drawing up the interim Iraqi government due to take power on June 30, a senior U.S. official said.
Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi said Monday that Brahimi could announce the new government as early as the end of this week.
Brahimi would announce the names of a president and prime minister, as well as two vice presidents and Cabinet ministers, Pachachi told the Kuwait News Agency.
Filling the top two posts will be Brahimi's most challenging task, since Iraq's three main groups - the Shiite majority and the large Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities - all want a representative either as president or prime minister.
Brahimi said the new government will reflect Iraq's "wide diversity," but he did not say when the posts would be announced.