U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte introduced the eight-page resolution in a closed Security Council meeting on behalf of its three cosponsors, the United States, Britain and Spain. The long-awaited plan for postwar Iraq envisions the United States and Britain running the country as “occupying powers” for at least a year and probably much longer.
The plan would phase out the existing U.N. “Oil for Food” program and instead deposit Iraqi oil revenues in an “Iraqi Assistance Fund” for humanitarian and reconstruction purposes, to be held by the Iraqi Central Bank, currently managed by Peter McPherson, a former deputy U.S. Treasury secretary.
Under the resolution, the money from oil sales would be used for humanitarian goods, reconstruction, civil administration and the continued disarmament of Iraq. An arms embargo would be maintained.
The fund would have an advisory board that would include officials appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as well as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and others. This group would audit expenditures.
Negroponte’s spokesman, Richard Grenell, said the resolution would “encourage the international community to help build a free society in Iraq, and define the role for the U.N. and its agencies.”
The Bush administration is counting on approval from Russia, France, China and Germany, who held the strongest anti-war positions before the fighting began.
French President Jacques Chirac said Friday that discussions about the U.S.-backed proposal will be conducted in a “constructive and open” manner.
He also reaffirmed France’s desire for the United Nations to play a “central role” in the reconstruction of Iraq. France is a veto-holding member of the Security Council and favors a suspension of the sanctions rather their complete withdrawal
Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Sergey Lavrov said Moscow has “a long list” of questions about the U.S.-backed plan.
German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said the role of a proposed U.N. coordinator in Iraq appeared too vague and needed to be clarified. He also said that the U.N. officials in charge of the Oil for Food program should be consulted before it is phased out.
Other countries that did not support the U.S.’s unsuccessful push for U.N. authorization for the war reacted more favorably. Angolan U.N. Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins said “it’s a good start” and Chile’s U.N. ambassador, Gabriel Valdes, said, “our initial reaction is very positive.”
Russia and France, meanwhile, have made their own proposals.
Russia wants U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Baghdad to certify that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction have been eliminated before sanctions are lifted, as called for under current resolutions. It also wants the Oil for Food program continued under U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s authority until Iraq has a legitimate government and sanctions are lifted.
The French proposal calls on the council to suspend sanctions, phase out the Oil for Food program, have U.S. and U.N. weapons inspectors work together and lift sanctions when a legitimate Iraqi government is in place.
The U.S. draft resolution makes no mention of U.N. weapons inspectors. Negroponte reiterated Thursday that the United States is conducting its own searches and sees no role for U.N. inspectors “for the foreseeable future.”
The resolution also would endorse the authority of the United States and Britain to govern Iraq — and it foresees a lengthy stay. It notes that Washington and London sent a letter to the council president Thursday recognizing their responsibilities and obligations under international law “as occupying powers.”
The letter marks the first time the United States has referred to its role in Iraq as an “occupying power,” a status governed by the Geneva Conventions that would entail wide-ranging responsibilities to support the Iraqi people. Until now, Washington has avoided the term, instead calling itself a “liberating force.”
Under the proposal, the 12-month initial authorization for the U.S. and British “authority” in Iraq would be renewed automatically unless the Security Council decided otherwise. Since the United States and Britain have veto powers, they could block any attempt to force them out of Iraq.
Meanwhile, both Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks said Friday that it’s not possible to say how long U.S. troops would remain in Iraq.
“Anyone who thinks they know how long it’s going to take is fooling themselves,” Rumsfeld said. “It’s not knowable.”