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Unanimity: Expand the International Presence in Postwar Iraq

October 16, 2003 at 12:00 AM EST
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MARGARET WARNER: Today’s U.N. Iraq vote. Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

SPOKESMAN: The draft resolution has been adopted unanimously…

KWAME HOLMAN: The support of the full 15-member Security Council came only after the U.S. agreed yesterday to last-minute changes to its Iraq resolution, suggested by Russia, Germany and France, all opponents of the Iraq war. The final document, said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, sets a political horizon for Iraqi self-rule.

JOHN NEGROPONTE: In this regard, the resolution also reaffirms a point that the United States has never left in doubt the exercise of governmental authorities in Iraq by the coalition provisional authority is temporary in nature.

KWAME HOLMAN: Under Security Council Resolution 1511, that temporary occupation will end when a new Iraqi government is sworn in. It authorizes a multinational force under U.S. command, in effect putting the existing foreign troops in Iraq under a U.N. umbrella. The resolution sets a Dec. 15 deadline for the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to establish a timetable for elections and creation of a constitution. And it sets forth that Secretary-General Kofi Annan should strengthen the vital role of the U.N. in Iraq, including the constitutional process.

KOFI ANNAN: I shall do my utmost to implement the mandate established by the council, bearing in mind the constraints on building up the required capacity and my obligation to care for the safety and security of United Nations staff. I am grateful to the council for the flexibility that the new resolution gives me in this respect.

KWAME HOLMAN: Several ambassadors said they voted “yes” in order to support U.N. solidarity. Then they noted their problems with the resolution. Germany’s Gunter Plueger had pushed unsuccessfully for a clearer timeline for the end of the U.S.-led occupation.

GUNTER PLEUGER: We missed the clear signal that the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis will be accelerated. The role of the United Nations, and in particular of the secretary-general, could have been strengthened even more.

KWAME HOLMAN: But British Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry counseled against what he called a blueprint presented from New York.

EMYR JONES-PARRY: The resolution we have adopted is quite clearly about giving control of Iraq to its people as quickly as possible. But quite rightly, the resolution does not prescribe to the Iraqis artificial schedules for this transfer. Instead, it puts the people of Iraq in the driving seat through the interim Iraqi administration. It reaffirms Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the temporary nature of the coalition’s powers.

KWAME HOLMAN: As for international troops, Pakistan’s Munir Akram said he had wanted any U.N.-approved personnel in Iraq to be separate and distinct from current occupying forces.

MUNIR AKRAM: Unfortunately, these considerations could not be reflected in the resolution we have just adopted. Under these circumstances, Pakistan will not be able to contribute troops for the multinational force in Iraq.

KWAME HOLMAN: Germany, France and Russia will not be sending troops or more money. They said so in a joint statement.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE, U.N. Ambassador, France: The resolution should have gone further on two major issues: First, the role of the United Nations, in particular in the political process; and second, the pass or the transfer of responsibilities to the Iraqi people. In that context, the conditions are not created for us to envisage any military commitment and any further financial contribution beyond our present engagement.

KWAME HOLMAN: Still, U.S. officials expressed confidence the resolution will encourage other nations to commit new funds for Iraq at next week’s donors’ conference in Madrid.

MARGARET WARNER: Why did critics of the U.S. war and occupation support today’s resolution, and what will it mean in practical terms? For that we turn to: Munir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, whom we just saw; and Wolfgang Ischinger, Germany’s ambassador to the U.S. Welcome to you both, gentlemen.

Ambassador Ischinger, we just heard your U.N. counterpart expressing his misgivings about this resolution. Why did Germany, nonetheless, support it?

WOLFGANG ISCHINGER: Iraq … the success which we all strive for in Iraq is a hugely important project for the entire international community. We felt that after the discussions that were held in New York and between the capitals, a point had been reached where important suggestions that had come from us and from others had at least been introduced, not as fully as we were hoping to get it, but they were at least being acknowledged. Under these conditions, my government decided that it was important for the entire international community to demonstrate unity. We have unity of purpose, and we have had unity of purpose. We want the success of the international mission in Iraq. The difference that we had was about the best method, and I think that was all … that was what all the discussion in New York was about. So now we are united. I think it’s a great step forward in trying to recreate cohesion in the transatlantic community with respect to the situation in Iraq.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, Ambassador Akram, we just heard you on the tape. I heard you at the U.N. today express your misgivings, particularly about the way the military forces are set up. Why did Pakistan support this resolution?

MUNIR AKRAM: Well, Pakistan has always felt that we must try and restore stability and security in Iraq and its economic reconstruction. We saw the objective of this resolution as being three-fold: Firstly, to promote a political process leading to Iraq’s restoration of its sovereignty and political independence; secondly, to promote security in Iraq; and thirdly, to promote its economic reconstruction. So these are objectives which we fully endorse. We have of course several questions about the complexities and contradictions which are in the text of the resolution, but because the overall objectives were those which we share, we supported the resolution.

MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Ischinger, the American ambassador, Negroponte, said today that the turning point to getting this unanimous resolution were the discussions he had yesterday with the Germans, the French and the Russians, and he acknowledged changes that were made as a result. What specific changes did you get in the resolution that gave you a comfort level to vote for it?

WOLFGANG ISCHINGER: I think it was very important for us to get at least some elements of time lines introduced to the text. And our other central goal was to work in a number of paragraphs of the text to enhance the role of the United Nations as a whole and more specifically, of the responsibilities of the secretary-general of the United Nations and his special representative, as well as of the Security Council of the United Nations, as the political oversight body. So there were … there was movement on the text.

As you heard from my colleague, Gunther Pleuger, we were still not entirely happy with the movement, but we were happy with the direction in which it was going. And so at the end of the day … or rather, very early this morning, my government said, “Sure, you know, we got as far as we got, and we have the shared purpose and we have the shared objective,” as the Pakistani ambassador just said, so it’s now important to demonstrate unity to the Iraqi people because it is for them that this entire operation has been started, and it is for them that we now need to bring it to a successful conclusion.

MARGARET WARNER: As you both know, the U.S. of course hopes that this will open the door to more troops and more financial help from other countries, yet you both, in giving these votes today, hurried out to say it wouldn’t, as far as you were concerned. Ambassador Akram, why is it not enough for your country to contribute troops when this resolution does at least put the current multinational force there … it’s small, but working there with the U.S., it puts it under some sort of U.N. umbrella. Why is that not enough for Pakistan?

MUNIR AKRAM: Pakistan has from the outset stated that we would want to go into Iraq if we had been invited by the Iraqi people or representatives of the Iraqi people. Secondly, we felt that the multinational force should have an identity which was separate from the coalition forces because, in earlier resolutions, it was recognized that the coalition forces were representatives of the occupying powers. It would be, in our view, counterproductive to provide forces which were by association seen as part of occupation forces. What we need in Iraq is for the Iraqi people to see that those forces who come in are coming in in response to their desires and in coming in to assist them in achieving objectives which they themselves set with regard to political reconstruction, with regard to the promotion of security and so forth. So these are propositions which we have argued for weeks on end, and we were disappointed that these are not fully reflected in the resolution. And therefore, we find it difficult to go into a situation where we will become in association at least, part of an occupation force.

MARGARET WARNER: And Ambassador Ischinger, a parallel question to you about money. For this donors’ conference coming next week, the whole E.U. has only offered $237 million — with an “M.” Why not any more? Why isn’t this resolution … if you say that Germany’s interest is in promoting the stability and rebuilding of Iraq, why isn’t Europe willing to give more?

WOLFGANG ISCHINGER: Well, Margaret, I think it’s important to understand what the statement from which you quoted, what it means. It does not mean, for example, that Germany will not do or will not pursue what it has already promised to do. For example, we have been offering humanitarian aid on a large scale for a number of months. We have offered substantial technical help from a German government agency that could provide water purification, for example, infrastructure support and work in many other areas.

MARGARET WARNER: Are you saying any of that kind of help is going to be stepped up as a result of this, even if you and the French and the Russians aren’t willing to give more cash?

WOLFGANG ISCHINGER: Well, work on that is continuing, and more importantly even, as I’m sure you remember, Chancellor Schroeder, when he met with President Bush some time ago in New York, offered German assistance in helping to train the future Iraqi police and conceivably also military. That offer stands, and we’ve actually begun actively to consult on how that offer could be implemented. So it’s not that we’re not doing anything. And of course there will be contributions at the donors’ conference not only from the European Union as a whole; there will also be, I imagine, contributions from a number of European Union member states and from outside the European Union. So quite a momentum I think has been generated, and my country does not stand aside.

MARGARET WARNER: I want to ask you both, finally, go back to the U.N. presence. As we all know, after the bombing in Baghdad in August, the U.N. mostly withdrew back to what Kofi Annan called today a skeletal presence. What, in your view, Ambassador Akram, will be the circumstances under which Kofi Annan will be willing to beef up the U.N. presence again? As we’ve all noted, the resolution gives him essentially the leeway, and he said it today, the flexibility to decide when “circumstances” permit. What do you think it will take?

MUNIR AKRAM: Well, I think that the circumstances will be different for different kinds of activities by the United Nations. For example, in our view, the United Nations could, from a very early stage, play a part in overseeing the political process in providing an impartial presence to oversee the political process which has been set in motion.

MARGARET WARNER: The … I didn’t mean to interrupt you, but you mean, for instance, as part of this drafting of the constitution and so on? There’s some reference to that in the resolution, of Annan playing a role in that.

MUNIR AKRAM: That’s right. There is a political process. The U.N. can advise, can assist the Iraqis to undertake those processes, the constitutional process, the electoral process and so forth, which would not entail an actual large physical presence in Iraq. So those are things that we believe could be initiated quite early in the day. Other things perhaps which will require a large physical presence for the United Nations in Iraq may have to wait until the security environment improves. But in our view, the very presence of the United Nations, paradoxically, would also contribute to improving the security environment because once the United Nations is seen as an agency which is assisting in helping the Iraqi people, an impartial body which is helping them, it will contribute to the improvement of the climate of trust within Iraq and therefore improve the security environment.

MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Akram, Ambassador Ischinger, thank you both.