The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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US focus shifts to French virtual veto clause

United Nations, June 7 (Reuters): The US and Britain pressed the UN to pass a resolution today on Iraqi sovereignty but first are considering French proposals to give Baghdad a virtual veto over major American military action.

Encouraged by a generally receptive attitude toward the proposed resolution, Washington and London worked today on an amended draft — the fourth in two weeks — in an effort to win a unanimous vote in the 15-member UN Security Council.

Control of the 160,000 US-led troops is the most contentious issue in the draft, which gives international endorsement to the interim Iraqi government that is to assume power on June 30 and authorises a multinational force under American command.

At a special session yesterday, the Security Council received separate letters from US secretary of state Colin Powell and Iraq’s new Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi. The letters pledge that the American commander and Iraqi leaders would consult on and coordinate “fundamental security and policy issues including policy on sensitive offensive operations” through a new national security committee.

“We’re confident that they do the trick,” said ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of Britain. He said his government understood that “the policy on sensitive offensive operations will require the assent” of a new Iraqi ministerial committee.

But the letters do not spell that out, prompting France, backed in part by Germany, Algeria and Chile, to request that the resolution make clear Iraq can block a major campaign, such as the American assault on Falluja, which Iraqis opposed.

The US and Britain are considering how to respond to France’s request for a virtual veto, although diplomats do not expect language as forceful as Paris wanted, council sources said. Other changes are expected to use stronger language to describe the transfer of sovereignty.

There was no chance the draft will accommodate the Kurds, who are threatening to quit the government unless the UN resolution endorses the autonomy granted to them under a law passed in March. “We are not bluffing here, we are serious — it’s the right of our people,” Nechirvan Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, said.

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