The United Nations Security Council held lengthy discussions today on a draft resolution from the occupying powers on interim arrangements and the UN’s role in Iraq, and the United States said it hoped to present a modified version of the text for a vote next week on lifting sanctions, funding and other issues.
"The process is engaged and substantive discussions are underway," Ambassador Munir Akram, Council President for May, told reporters during a break. But "I think we are still in the phase of clarification, actual negotiations may come later."
Today's sessions heard clarifications from UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell and Benon Sevan, Executive Director of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme, as well as from the sponsors - the US, the United Kingdom and Spain - in response to legal and technical issues raised at an experts' meeting on Monday.
Mr. Akram declined to go into specifics on the clarifications, but said certain additional questions were also posed. "There are questions with regard to the future of Iraq, what the powers of the authority would be, what the powers of the UN would be, what the process of moving towards representative government would be, how the funds would be administered," he added.
The draft, as presented to the Council last Friday, calls for Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint a special coordinator who would, among other things, coordinate humanitarian aid and work with the occupying authority and the people of Iraq to restore national and local institutions.
Asked during a break whether there was any consideration of giving the UN more than a humanitarian role, US Ambassador John Negroponte reiterated statements last month by US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the world body would have "a vital role."
"That's going to be in several different areas," he added. "Humanitarian is certainly one where the UN already has a coordinating role. We see a role in facilitating the political process and if you look at operative paragraph eight of our draft resolution, it enumerates seven or eight different areas in which we believe the coordinator of the Secretary-General could have a very, very important role indeed."
He said he expected there would be an experts meeting tomorrow when there would be a modified text that tries to "take into account many of the comments that we have received." Then, the resolution would be put to a vote next week.
Ambassador Sergey Lavrov of the Russian Federation said there were still quite a number of questions which remained, and the sponsors promised to come back on them.
"After that, when we have all this information, including the continued opinion being provided to us by the (UN) Secretariat, we will have to start negotiating something," he added.
Going into today's session, Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany stressed the importance of a major role for the UN.
"The important issue now is how is the political process being organized," he told reporters. "You know the EU (European Union), of which we are a part, has asked for an important and central role of the UN and also the resolution of the co-sponsors says the UN should have a vital role. Now we have to add substance to this."