U.N. Security Council Unanimously Backs Iraq Plan

The 15-member council approved the resolution in spite of earlier reservations voiced by some members. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has criticized the United States for launching the Iraq war without U.N. support, reportedly contacted ambassadors in recent days to urge that they maintain unity on Iraq.

“It is critical to the Iraqi people, the region and the entire international community that we succeed in reaching the goal of an Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbors,” Annan said after the vote, the Associated Press reported.

Observers said the adoption of the resolution is a diplomatic victory for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell who, according to news reports, had considered withdrawing the resolution if U.S. diplomats were unable to garner support within the council.

“We have come together to help the Iraqi people and put all of our differences of the past in the past,” Powell said Thursday.

The resolution calls for the establishment of a multi-national peacekeeping force in Iraq that would serve under U.S. control and asks the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council to set a timetable for the drafting of a constitution and for scheduling elections. The resolution also gives Annan and the United Nations a larger role in the rebuilding process.

France, Russia and Germany, who opposed the war in Iraq, had reportedly lobbied for the inclusion of a set timetable for the end of coalition rule in Iraq and for the implementation of an autonomous Iraqi government.

“This draft certainly does not go as far as we would have liked,” French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said in the council meeting, according to Reuters news service. “We would have preferred in particular that a clear text set more restrictive and closer deadlines for the transfer of responsibilities.”

The resolution does request that the Coalition Provisional Authority “return governing responsibilities and authorities to the people of Iraq as soon as practicable and requests the authority, in cooperation as appropriate with the Governing Council and the secretary-general, to report to the council on the progress being made.”

France, Russia and Germany also reportedly held out until Thursday morning in an attempt to get a set deadline for the end of coalition rule, but decided to support the measure to maintain international unity.

“As a result of the proposals and amendments made by our three countries, the resolution has been improved throughout the negotiation process, thus allowing us, in a spirit of unity, to support it as a step in the right direction of the restoration of Iraq with the participation of the United Nations,” the three nations said in a joint statement.

Despite their support for the resolution, the trio signaled they would not immediately commit troops or more money to the U.S.-run stabilization effort.

The Associated Press reported that a spokeswoman for French President Jacques Chirac said European countries were “very far from being able to commit themselves financially or militarily,” and the trio’s joint statement said troops and money would not be forthcoming because the resolution did not go far enough in authorizing a larger role for the United Nations or setting a date for coalition rule.

“The conditions are not created for us to envisage any military commitment and no further financial contributions beyond our present engagement,” the statement said.

However, Powell said the resolution would help convince other nations to provide economic support for Iraq. An international donors conference is scheduled for next week in Madrid.

Syria, the only Arab country that currently has a seat on the council, was reportedly the council’s final holdout but also agreed just before the vote to support the resolution.