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U.S. Calls for U.N. Vote on Running Iraq

U.S. Calls for U.N. Vote on Running Iraq

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United States called for a vote Thursday on a U.N. resolution to let the U.S.-led coalition run Iraq until it has a recognized government and to lift sanctions so the country's oil wealth can be used for reconstruction.

"We look forward to a vote tomorrow morning," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said Wednesday shortly after the final text was distributed.

The Security Council is expected to approve the seven-page resolution, but whether it will get the support of all 15 members, as Secretary of State Colin Powell said he would like, remains to be seen.

"Our impression is that the council members have welcomed this resolution and that it enjoys strong support, but I would hesitate to predict for you at this moment exactly what the precise vote count is going to be," Negroponte said.

The resolution's cosponsors -- the United States, Britain and Spain -- made more than 90 changes from the original draft introduced on May 9 to respond to concerns of other council members, said Negroponte's spokesman, Richard Grenell. "The text is final and we are asking delegations to stand and be counted."

Diplomats said the resolution was virtually certain to get 12 "yes" votes in the 15-member council.

France, Russia and China's votes have been in question, but council diplomats said France indicated Wednesday it will vote "yes." Syria, the only Arab nation on the council, recalled Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe for consultations.

"If I do not receive instructions, I shall not come to the meeting -- and I told them in the council," said Syria's deputy ambassador Fayssal Mekdad. "This is a very serious resolution. It has obligations and commitments. Out of all those 14 members of the council, Syria is the most concerned country."

France, Russia and China -- permanent members that opposed the war against Iraq -- have let it be known that they would abstain, and not use their vetoes, if they couldn't support the resolution.

"I expect it to be an overwhelming majority, if not unanimous," said Bulgaria's Ambassador Stefan Tafrov. Angola's Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins called it a "good draft" and said consensus "looks likely." German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said: "I think we are on a good way to a possible consensus resolution."

Many council members had complained the resolution predicted no end to the U.S. and British occupation of Iraq. Many also pressed for a bigger role for the United Nations in postwar Iraq -- especially in building a new government -- and for the council to have a significant role in monitoring the country's reconstruction.

But Negroponte insisted the United States will not stand for any time limits on how long it can administer Iraq -- a reference to a French suggestion that it be for one year and not open-ended.

In a key concession, however, the United States agreed to allow the Security Council "to review the implementation of this resolution within 12 months of adoption and to consider further steps that might be necessary."

The previous texts did not call for any U.N. review of the postwar Iraq operation.

Asked how long the coalition planned to remain in Iraq, Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said: "The occupation will end when there is an international recognized representative government. That could happen in three months or six months, or 18 months or 24 months. That is the criterion. Nothing in this resolution sets a time criterion other than that."

The resolution would also phase out the U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program over six months, which would end U.N. control over Iraq's oil income. It would also grant immunity from lawsuits involving oil and natural gas until an internationally recognized government is in place and Iraq's $400 billion debt is restructured.

Under the final draft, all frozen Iraqi assets would be transferred to a new Development Fund for Iraq, where its oil revenue will be deposited. But at Germany's request an exception was added to prevent the transfer of frozen assets with claims against them.

The United Nations would be given a stronger role in establishing a democratic government than initially envisioned and the stature of a U.N. envoy in Iraq would be increased under the resolution. But it also leaves the United States and Britain, as occupying powers, firmly in control of Iraq and its oil wealth.

The resolution asks Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint a special representative with "independent powers" to work with the United States and Britain "to facilitate a process" leading to a democratic government.

Annan said Tuesday he will act quickly to make an appointment once the resolution is adopted.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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