The Draft Resoluton That Suits No One

Consultations on the US-proposed resolution on Iraq began at the UN Security Council on Monday. Although it is called "revised," it is already obvious that the draft resolution satisfies neither UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, nor such Security Council members as France, Germany and Russia. This means that it will have to be revised once again.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, "so far, we are not satisfied with the draft submitted by [our] US partners, but they wish to reach a compromise." Washington hopes that the resolution will be adopted before October 23, when a conference of Iraq's potential donors opens in Madrid. Scepticism on that score prevails in other capitals, and no one is hurrying to take any action. This is because the Madrid meeting will not deal with restoring the UN's reputation, which was undermined by the military campaign in Iraq, but will decide who will take part in developing the Iraqi economy and how. In other words, the conference will be about spending and profit. It is no coincidence that Putin said, "the population of Iraq trusts [its] traditional partners more than those who control the situation at present." For "traditional partners" read Russia and France.

The critics of the new draft resolution believe that it does not give the UN the central role in the political settlement in Iraq. Moreover, well-informed sources have told RIA Novosti, "the new draft resolution, in fact, makes the occupation of Iraq legitimate." However, the new draft clarifies the temporary character of Iraq's occupation and the urgent need to restore its sovereignty, and to ensure a gradual hand-over of administrative functions to Iraqi bodies of power as they are formed.

John Negreponte, US ambassador to the UN, recently told reporters that his draft worked out in detail the extended and clearly defined role of the UN, especially in the political transition period. US diplomats are sure that most of the suggestions, expressed by representatives from a number of countries in the debates around the Iraqi resolution held throughout September, have been taken into account.

Meanwhile, France's ambassador to the UN Jean-Marc de la Sablier has not found any proposals submitted by his country and Germany in the new draft. Russian diplomats, though, have spotted in the US draft many familiar phrases they expressed during the debates, but the meaning of the resolution as a whole is not exactly what Moscow was expecting.

The sources told RIA Novosti, "in the new draft, the Americans took a good deal from us, but superficially. We see our phrases in the resolution, but, on the whole, it basically covers the occupation forces with a UN umbrella." The point at issue is that the new resolution should not be about the UN providing the coalition authorities with assistance, but about the political settlement being conducted under the aegis of this organisation. In other words, the present situation has to be changed completely, rather than preserved.

The draft resolution envisages that the provisional coalition authorities in Iraq (the US and Britain) in co-operation with a UN representative in that country assist the Provisional Governing Council of Iraq in its efforts to achieve a political settlement. This includes providing help to draw up a new constitution and regulations for elections. But the resolution does not say whether or not the Security Council will have the deciding vote in approving a timetable and a programme for drafting Iraq's new constitution and holding elections there.

Moreover, the draft resolution is vague about how long mandate of the multinational forces, which is how the US and Britain want their occupying armies to be called, will last. It only states that the UN Security Council should revise this mandate when the Iraqi people form an internationally recognised and representative government. But the draft sets no time limits for the political settlement, nor does it give any details of how and when the coalition authorities will hand over power to the people of Iraq.

Russia, France and Germany would like to see a clear stage-by-stage timetable for the political settlement in Iraq. The timeframes here are not as important as the succession of the settlement phases, because experience shows that the former can be changed.

The US considers that a constitution should be drawn up in Iraq first, to be followed by elections, and only then the formation of a new government. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan insists on the opposite. He believes that, prior to the adoption of a constitution and the holding of elections, a provisional government like the one in Afghanistan should be formed. Moreover, not from the members of the current American-appointed Provisional Governing Council. In Annan's opinion, a body that has not been empowered by the Iraqi people cannot be allowed to write the country's constitution.

Russia, France and Germany are also insisting on the earliest transition of power in Iraq from the American administration to the Iraqi people. To avoid a power vacuum, UN control over the situation in Iraq should be increased now.

Political control means control over a country's economy, and restoration of the Iraqi economy holds the promise of enormous dividends. The question is whether or not the US is prepared to hand over to the UN the reins of government in Iraq, along with a part of the Iraqi economy. This will save it from the present deadlock, but will also look like an admission that the entire operation in Iraq has been a mistake. This is something US voters will not forgive. At the same time, the US electorate wants America out of the Iraqi quagmire as soon as possible.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of tough talking before a compromise on the draft resolution is reached.

Marianna Belenkaya, RIAN