| A US soldier gives a final salute during a memorial ceremony for slain troops in Tikrit. (Reuters)
United Nations, Oct. 16 (Reuters): The UN Security Council voted unanimously today to adopt a resolution on post-war Iraq, a victory for the US which sought approval for its occupation of the country.
Until hours before the vote, the support of key council members, Russia, Germany and France was in doubt. All had opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq. Syria, the last hold-out and the only Arab member of the council, then also came on board for a 15-0 vote on the resolution co-sponsored by Britain, Spain and Cameroon.
President George W. Bush, under pressure over the growing cost of the Iraqi occupation in US lives and money, was hoping the resolution would encourage nations to support the occupation with troops and cash. It also asks Iraqi leaders to draw up a plan by December 15 for a new constitution and elections.
But Russia, Germany and France made clear no further aid or military contributions would be forthcoming. “If there ever was a time to help Iraq, it is now,” US ambassador John Negroponte told the council after the vote, asking all states to consider aiding the beleaguered nation.
In speeches after the vote, Russia, Germany and France said they backed the resolution for the sake of unity and stability in Iraq but regretted some of their key amendments had been rejected, especially setting a timetable for the end of the occupation. “We miss the clear signal that the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis will be accelerated,” Germany’s UN ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, told the council.
“The role of the UN and in particular of the secretary-general could have been strengthened even more,” he said. “And finally we would have wished for clearer guidelines also with regard to timing.”
Russia’s ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, said the resolution had “more pluses than minuses.” In Moscow, deputy foreign minister Yuri Fedotov reiterated that Russia would not send troops.
Until this week, France, Germany and Russia had been expected to abstain. But yesterday diplomats said Russian President Vladimir Putin backed the resolution. The envoys said Putin had evidently decided his relations with Washington superseded opposition to the resolution. Germany then eased its stand, leaving France no choice, the diplomats said.
In Brussels, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, after conferring by telephone with French President Jacques Chirac and Putin, announced support of the three countries early today.
But he said the measure would not induce aid to Iraq in the foreseeable future.
In a joint statement after the vote, France, Germany and Russia said: “The conditions are not created for us to envisage any military commitment and no further financial contributions beyond our present engagement.”
France and Germany have pledged a modest $232 million for Iraq’s reconstruction from the 15-nation European Union’s executive commission.
While the Bush administration probably had the nine votes needed for adoption in the 15-nation Security Council, a narrow victory would have been considered a political failure in recruiting support for US policies.
The resolution was revised five times since August to strengthen the role of the UN and to chart a path toward Iraqi independence. It creates a UN-authorised multinational force in Iraq under US leadership in an effort to recruit troops from Pakistan and other nations, wary of serving the occupation.
In Washington, defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: “It’s a good thing that it passed,” adding that the document might make it easier for some countries to contribute troops.
The measure also calls on the the 25-member Iraqi governing council to produce by December 15 a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections, a process which could take several years. But it gives no date for a transfer of power.
Adoption of the resolution was a victory for secretary of state Colin Powell, who first convinced hardliners in the administration to return to the UN and last week was ready to give up on the resolution rather than face a divided council.
UN secretary-general Kofi Annan nearly torpedoed the effort two weeks ago when he agreed with France and Germany in urging the US to shift power within a few months to a provisional government. The US refused but came back with new concessions this week.