As the Security Council today began discussing a new United States draft resolution on Iraq, which according to a US representative seeks to enhance the United Nations role in Iraq, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that - at first glance - the draft did not go in the direction he had recommended.
A quicker transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis followed by a longer time to draft a constitution - similar to the process now being pursued in Afghanistan - "may change the dynamics on the ground, in terms of the security situation, and send a message to the Iraqi people and also to the region," Mr. Annan told reporters after his monthly luncheon with the Council.
Speaking to reporters in his national capacity after the Council's closed-door meeting earlier Thursday, US Ambassador John Negroponte, President of the 15-member body for October, said the draft stresses the desire of achieving the political transition as quickly as possible and urges Iraqis to complete the transition expeditiously. But he did not address the issue of a transfer prior to the drafting of a new constitution and elections.
Mr. Annan said his suggestion "doesn't mean that the international community walks away. I mean, you stay on and work with them through the transition, with reconstruction, and with security arrangements, the kind of thing we are doing in Afghanistan, but at least the Iraqis will be responsible and they will be the government, going through the transition with the support of the international community, and you get rid of the idea that it is an occupation and cut back on the resistance."
Asked this morning on arrival at UN Headquarters in New York how concerned he was that the draft might be "a little bit out of step" with the plan he envisioned, Mr. Annan replied: "Obviously it's not going in the direction I had recommended, but I will still have to study it further."
In comments last month, Mr. Annan said there were two issues - the UN's mandate in Iraq and security - that needed to be addressed following August's terrorist bombing on UN headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 people, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
"There are discussions about a second resolution which may affect the UN mandate and the role of the UN, and we would obviously need to know what that new role will be for us to determine how we organize ourselves to tackle that," he said back then. "And of course there is the security issue. We need a secure environment to be able to operate."
Mr. Negroponte said today the US hoped security conditions "will exist in the very near future" to permit full UN activities. Since the 19 August attack, Mr. Annan has insisted on the urgency of providing adequate security, and has temporarily withdrawn most international UN staff, and today said he would not hesitate to pull everyone out if the security situation deteriorated further.
"We explicitly define the mission of the multinational force to include the maintenance of security conditions necessary to carry out the political transition process," Ambassador Negroponte added, referring to the US-led force to which Washington has said it hopes to encourage other States to contribute.
As for the UN's role as laid out in the draft text, Mr. Negroponte said: "We've incorporated language that details an expanded and explicit role for the United Nations, especially in the political transition process…We're very mindful of the vital importance and vital role that the United Nations can play in Iraq."
Without disclosing explicit details, Ambassador Negroponte added that the draft encourages Mr. Annan to pursue "the specific course of action he proposed in his July 17 report, notably the various tasks enumerated therein drawing on UN expertise in the political, economic and humanitarian areas."
The tasks outlined in that report, such as assisting the Iraqi interim administration "to gradually rejoin the international community," and the possible provision of help in matters like electoral and judicial reform, are specifically tied to the parameters of the Council's earlier resolution 1483 on Iraq, passed in May, which some countries have called too vague in its delineation of a UN role.