Paul Reynolds / BBC News Online – 2004-05-25 11:34:11
This is an important statement because it is part of an effort by the US and Britain to boost the status of the interim government, which until recently looked as if it was going to be very weak.
The veto power will enable the interim government to shape the role of foreign troops. However, these troops, to be called a “multinational force” (MNF) will also be given the right to use “all necessary means” to maintain order in a United Nations Security Council resolution.
The US and British governments hope that the resolution will be adopted within about two weeks.
Review but no Pull-out Date
There is no withdrawal date for the MNF in the draft resolution. The force will have a mandate lasting up to a year. It will then be reviewed, though it could be reviewed from January if another, elected Iraqi government to take office from then, so requests.
In theory, the interim appointed Iraqi government will also be able to ask the troops to leave but in practice it is not expected to.
Any arguments will be resolved in an Iraqi national security council which will be led by the Iraqi prime minister. An American and a British general will sit on it but under current plans, the US ambassador is not expected to have a seat. Nor is the UN. “Iraq will have a veto,” the British official said.
The draft resolution was presented to the Security Council by the US and UK on Monday.
The resolution includes the following key points:
• It “endorses the formation of a sovereign government of Iraq that will take office by 30 June 2004” and welcomes “the commitment of the occupying powers to an end the occupation”
• It sets out a timetable for the political process, which will see the interim government hold office until elections to a national assembly in December or January, and eventually full elections
• It says that the UN will help organise elections and convene a consultative assembly as part of the process of developing political dialogue; if security permits, the UN will also undertake other tasks such as developing a census for the elections
• On security, the most difficult issue, it says that the Security Council recognises “the importance of the consent of the sovereign government of Iraq for the multinational force and of close coordination between the multinational force and the government”
• It says that the “multinational force shall have authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security”
• It welcomes “arrangements that are being put in place to establish a partnership between the MNF and the sovereign interim government of Iraq and to ensure co-ordination between the two”
‘Status of Forces’ Deal
The British official said the arrangements would be covered in an exchange of letters between the MNF and the interim Iraqi government, once it was appointed.
The UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, hopes to have a list of names by the end of this month or soon afterwards.
The letters will deal with the role of the national security council, and will in effect be the kind of “status of forces” agreement normal in peacekeeping operations such as those in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo.
The MNF will not be subject to Iraqi law but to the laws of the troops’ home countries. Iraqi forces will come under Iraqi command and will not need to take part in MNF operations but will fall under MNF orders if they do.
The details in these letters will be important as the exact nature of Iraqi control, such as a veto, over security is not addressed in detail by the resolution.
Other key points:
• The mandate of the MNF will be reviewed in 12 months or at the request of the transitional government taking power next January; this could be an issue if France insists on a clearer date for withdrawal
• A separate unit within the MNF will be set up to protect UN personnel, and member states are asked to contribute
• Iraqi forces will be trained up “progressively to play a greater role” in security
Tight Adoption Timetable
The British official also said that senior Iraqi prisoners such as Saddam Hussein would not immediately be handed over to the Iraqis. Iraqi law would apply in the prisons. The MNF would still have the right to detain and question suspects.
On economic issues, the resolution says that the interim government will control Iraq’s oil money with international supervision.
However, British officials made clear that it would not have any power over long-term oil contracts and its legislative powers would be minimal. It will have no right to make or change any security or constitutional law.
The timetable for adoption of the resolution is tight.
London and Washington hope that the new interim government will be named at the end of May. Then the exchange of letters on security will be quickly agreed and the resolution put to a vote around 6 June.
The ideal for the US and UK would be for it to be passed in time for the D-Day celebration on 6 June, and if not then by the G8 summit on 8 June.
In quotes: Reaction to draft UN Resolution
[The resolution] contains some positive points and others on which talks deserve to be continued, so that the resolution encourages the appearance very clearly of a political perspective in Iraq….The extent of the responsibilities of the future interim Iraqi government, especially over its oil resources, must be studied closely.
— President Jacques Chirac
We believe that full sovereignty has to be transferred to the Iraqi people. There are some ambiguities in the UN draft resolution. We hope that they will be clarified.
— Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi
The consultations on the government’s composition are under way. Depending on that we will be able to judge how legitimate a new government can look, above all, to the Iraqis themselves. It is from these positions that we proceed in determining our attitude to the new draft resolution.
— Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Naturally we must wait for [UN special envoy to Iraq] Lakhdar Brahimi’s report or propositions before the resolution can be finalised, but I think there is a very good basis on which to try to find a consensus, and we could obtain it.
— Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
The Chinese side supports a new resolution on the Iraq issue to be adopted by the UN Security Council… The Chinese side is seriously studying the draft resolutions submitted by the United States and Britain to the Security Council.
— Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao