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[casi] U.S. Abandons Idea of Bigger U.N. Role in Iraq Occupation

August 14, 2003

U.S. Abandons Idea of Bigger U.N. Role in Iraq Occupation


WASHINGTON, Aug. 13  The Bush administration has abandoned the idea of
giving the United Nations more of a role in the occupation of Iraq as sought
by France, India and other countries as a condition for their participation
in peacekeeping there, administration officials said today.

Instead, the officials said, the United States would widen its effort to
enlist other countries to assist the occupation forces in Iraq, which are
dominated by the 139,000 United States troops there.

In addition to American forces in Iraq, there are 21,000 troops representing
18 countries. At present, 11,000 of that number are from Britain. The United
States plans to seek larger numbers to help, especially with relief supplies
that are coming from another dozen countries.

Administration officials said that in spite of the difficult security
situation in Iraq, there was a consensus in the administration that it would
be better to work with these countries than to involve the United Nations or
countries that opposed the war and are now eager to exercise influence in a
postwar Iraq.

"The administration is not willing to confront going to the Security Council
and saying, 'We really need to make Iraq an international operation,' " said
an administration official. "You can make a case that it would be better to
do that, but right now the situation in Iraq is not that dire."

The administration's position could complicate its hopes of bringing a large
number of American troops home in short order. The length of the American
occupation depends on how quickly the country can be stabilized and the
attacks and uprisings brought under control.

The thinking on broadening international forces was disclosed today as the
United States moved on a separate front at the Security Council to get a
resolution passed this week that would welcome the establishment of the
25-member Governing Council set up by the United States and Britain in Iraq.

Security Council diplomats said today that they expected the resolution to
pass, but not without some qualms among some members.

In a measure of these misgivings, the diplomats said the wording of the
resolution was changed at the last minute this morning from saying that the
Security Council "endorses" the Iraqi group to saying that the Council
"welcomes" it.

The resolution would also establish an "assistance mission" of the United
Nations in Baghdad to support various United Nations activities there. Both
steps were sought by the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, who
had been under some pressure from Washington to make a gesture to recognize
the legitimacy of the occupation.

The American-led occupation picked the Governing Council members in July,
appointing people who represented a mix of ethnic and sectarian interests to
oversee Iraqi ministries and begin the process of drafting an Iraqi

Several Governing Council members have visited the United Nations, and
earlier this month Mr. Annan said he favored "some form of recognition" for
the Governing Council through a Security Council resolution.

The resolution drafted by the United States and submitted today was
perfunctory compared with previous Council resolutions on Iraq.

Administration officials said they expected to win the approval of the
Council, although it was possible that Syria would abstain or vote against
the resolution. Only a negative vote from the five permanent members of the
Council  Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States  would
constitute a veto.

Though the administration has decided against seeking a separate resolution
to give the United Nations any authority over security, some officials say
that consideration might be given to getting wider United Nations authority
over the multibillion-dollar reconstruction of Iraq.

A meeting of potential donor countries has been scheduled for Oct. 24 in
Madrid, and some of the big European countries that wanted a more
significant United Nations role if they sent peacekeepers are also hinting
that they wanted the United Nations to have more of a say over
reconstruction if they have to put up huge sums of money for that effort.

In Iraq this week, L. Paul Bremer III, the top American administrator in the
occupation, said that over the next four years, the amount of money needed
from outside for Iraq would be "staggering." Many experts say it could
amount to tens of billions of dollars.

The Bush administration has been reluctant to give the United Nations more
than minimal authority in the reconstruction of Iraq. Many administration
members say that France, Germany, Russia and other countries demanding such
a role are actually doing so to try to get more contracts and economic
benefits for themselves.

The desire for more United Nations involvement by many countries echoes the
debate that preceded the war. Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld and others were openly disdainful of getting United
Nations authorization for the war, even after Mr. Bush had sided with
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to pursue that route.

Mr. Rumsfeld, according to administration officials, vehemently opposes any
dilution of military authority over Iraq by involving the United Nations,
either through United Nations peacekeepers or indirectly in any United
Nations authorization of forces from other countries.

American military officials say they fear that involving the United Nations,
even indirectly, will hamper the latitude the United States must have in
overseeing Iraqi security and pursuing anti-American guerrilla forces or
terrorist actions.

The Pentagon said today that besides the United States and Britain, the
other countries that have already sent troops to Iraq are Albania, the Czech
Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,
Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and
Ukraine. The troops in Iraq serve under American and British command, and so
would the troops of any other countries that took part.

In addition, another dozen countries have been asked to help with forces to
protect and carry out relief. They include Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the
Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia,
Nicaragua, the Philippines, Portugal and Thailand.

In all, a Pentagon official said, the United States hopes to round up 44
countries to participate in the occupation.

A setback in the drive to line up countries occurred in July, when India, in
a reversal, said it would not participate without further United Nations
authority over peacekeeping. France, Germany and some other countries

Some administration officials said they would now rethink their strategy of
spurning the United Nations and see if there could be some language worked
out in a Security Council resolution as sought by India and the other

In effect, administration officials now say, such a resolution would be more
trouble than it is worth. Soundings among members of the Security Council
indicated that Russia, France and other countries might try for concessions
favorable to them in the running of Iraq, and such demands would only deepen
divisions between them and the United States.

"The last thing we need is a loss of momentum over the efforts to get things
under control in Iraq," said a Western diplomat involved in these
discussions. "Besides, the violence in Iraq is not as bad as everyone thinks
it is."

Some experts say that sooner or later the United States may have to change
its mind again, particularly if conditions in Iraq deteriorate drastically.
United Nations officials involved in peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan and
the Balkans say that the total number of troops in Iraq may have to double
before the security situation comes under control.

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