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U.S., Britain Propose Running Iraq for 1 Year

U.S., Britain Propose Running Iraq for 1 Year

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The long-awaited U.S. 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, a limited role for the United Nations, and Iraq's oil money financing the country's reconstruction.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte will officially introduce the eight-page resolution Friday to the Security Council and ask its members to support the blueprint.

But Washington's vision is at odds with that of several council members, particularly Russia.

While there is little enthusiasm for a replay of the bruising battle over the war itself, which shattered the council's unity, diplomats predict tough negotiations ahead. This time, the United States is in a much stronger position _ but U.S. diplomats said "this is not a take it or leave it resolution."

The U.S. resolution would lift economic and trade sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein's government after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and phase out the oil-for-food program instituted in 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with the embargoes. An arms embargo would be maintained.

Lifting sanctions immediately and phasing out oil-for-food over a four months will take Iraq's oil wealth out of the hands of the United Nations and put it under the control of Washington and London. Under the resolution, the money from oil sales would be used for humanitarian goods, reconstruction, civil administration and the continued disarmament of Iraq.

Russia and France, however, have made their own postwar 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 council resolutions. It also wants the oil-for-food program continued under Annan's authority until Iraq has a legitimate government and sanctions are lifted.

"We believe it's still valid," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said Thursday of his country's proposal.

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, however, 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 was given to some council members Thursday and U.S. and British officials began lobbying for its approval in capitals of key council nations. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have said it's time to put past differences over the war aside and do what's best for the Iraqi people in the future.

The council faces a June 3 deadline, when the current six-month phase of the U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program expires. The program has been reaching up to 90 percent of Iraq's 24 million people.

"Our view is that it's desirable to have this resolution passed as soon as possible, that the June 3 deadline for the expiry of the oil-for-food program is in fact very much the outer limit," Negroponte said.

The resolution also would endorse the authority of the United States and Britain to govern Iraq _ and it apparently 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 look after the Iraqi people. Until now, Washington has avoided the term, 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 both have veto powers, they could block any attempt to get them to leave Iraq _ which is likely to be deemed unacceptable by other council members.

The United States also could face opposition from council members that want the United Nations to have a major role in creating an interim government for Iraq _ and view the U.S. proposal as not offering the "vital role" that President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised the world body.

The American draft calls on Annan to appoint a U.N. special coordinator to work with U.S. and British authorities and the Iraqi people to restore and establish "national and local institutions for representative governance." The coordinator also would promote the delivery of humanitarian aid, the return of refugees, reconstruction, human rights, legal and judicial reform and rebuilding of an Iraqi police force.

The draft resolution also calls on all countries to support Iraq's reconstruction, to deny safe haven to members of Saddam's regime, and to prohibit the trade in looted Iraqi cultural artifacts.

(Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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