| Sergeant Rhonda Gwynn prays during a memorial service at a US army base in Tikrit. (Reuters)
United Nations, Sept. 11 (Reuters): France, Germany and Russia have offered the US a deal on Iraq: approving American military leadership but downgrading US civilian control in favour of Iraqis and the UN.
The three nations submitted amendments, circulated yesterday, to a US-drafted Security Council resolution shortly before a weekend foreign ministers meeting in Geneva to see if a compromise can be reached.
However, US secretary of state Colin Powell immediately ridiculed the idea of giving up power quickly during an interview with the Arabic television channel al-Jazeera.
“Suggestions that ... all we have to do is get up tomorrow morning and find an Iraqi who is passing by and give him the government (and) say: ‘You’re now in charge and ambassador (Paul) Bremer and the American army are leaving,’ that’s not an acceptable solution,” Powell said.
The Bush administration has proposed transforming the occupying armies into a UN-authorised multinational force, with an expanded command centre under US leadership.
Washington’s aim is to get troops involved from nations including India, Pakistan, Turkey and Bangladesh, who say they need a UN mandate to participate.
France and Germany made no objection to the force but they want the US and Britain to accelerate the end of the occupation and give Iraqis more authority over civilian life, including oil resources. The Franco-German document, issued separately from milder Russian amendments, calls for the UN endorsement of Iraq’s governing council and cabinet as a “trustee of Iraqi sovereignty” until an elected government is established.
It would grant the UN a major role in advising the council on a timetable, helping draft a constitution leading to elections and initiating a dialogue in the region. The US believes the Iraqi governing council has to determine a timetable leading to elections, in coordination with occupying authorities and the UN.
Russia too approved US military control but says turning over civilian power to Iraqis should happen gradually. Moscow asked Annan to provide a specific timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections in cooperation with the Iraqi council and in consultation with the occupying powers.
To speed up the process, Annan invited the five permanent members, with veto power, in the 15-nation Security Council to Geneva for talks. The five are Powell and foreign ministers Jack Straw of Britain, Igor Ivanov of Russia, Dominique de Villepin of France and Li Zhaoxing of China.
Germany, which has coordinated its policies with France on Iraq, is not a permanent member and was elected to the council for a two-year term. The US and Britain want a vote before President George W. Bush addresses the UN General Assembly on September 23, but several Security Council members predict negotiations will take longer than that.