| UN officials during a ceremony at Baghdad airport before slain United Nations envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello’s coffin was put on a Brazilian air force jet for Geneva. (AFP)
United Nations, Aug. 22 (Reuters): UN secretary-general Kofi Annan today warned that the US and its allies faced an uphill battle to get countries to send troops to Iraq if they did not cede some decision-making powers.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with British foreign secretary Jack Straw, Annan touched on a proposal diplomats said was under consideration. The proposal consisted of a multinational force and police to help guard UN facilities and personnel, with a separate command structure but under the umbrella of the US military.
The force would be authorised but not organised by the UN, with Annan saying: “We don’t have the capacity” to send blue-helmeted peacekeepers.
Despite worldwide anguish over the bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad, the US faces considerable resistance in its quest for a UN resolution that would recruit more troops, police and money to help rebuild Iraq if it does not relinquish some control.
“It is not excluded that the Security Council may decide to transform the operation into a UN-mandated multinational force with other governments coming in,” Annan said.
“It would also imply not just burden-sharing but also sharing decision and responsibility with the others,” Annan said. “If that doesn’t happen, I think it is going to be very difficult to get a second resolution that will satisfy everyone.”
Divisions in the 15-member Security Council reflect those before the war, with France, Germany and Russia, all opponents of the US-led invasion, opposing Washington again. They made clear they wanted a larger UN role in Iraq, militarily and economically, before approving a resolution.
Several potential troop contributors in the Arab world as well as India, Pakistan and Turkey have refrained from sending soldiers without a stronger UN mandate.
But US secretary of state Colin Powell, who visited Annan yesterday, gave no indication the Bush administration would relinquish military or other controls of the country’s development. Straw said today he wanted “to strengthen the mandate of the UN” but gave no details.
“Ceding authority is not an issue we have had to discuss,” Powell said. But he said that “perhaps additional language and a new resolution might encourage others.”
French foreign minister Dominique Villepin dismissed US efforts to get more troops to Iraq, telling the newspaper Le Monde: “The right thing would be to bring into play a true international force under the mandate of the UN.” United States officials stress that the US-led force in Iraq was already multinational, with 30 nations providing about 22,000 troops and more expected. But 11,000 troops are from Britain alone. Countries such as India, Pakistan and Turkey are reluctant to send troops without a UN mandate and some have doubts about serving under a US command.