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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Analysis: Three stages to a new Iraq

By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

After their meeting in Belfast, George Bush and Tony Blair stressed that the United Nations would play a "vital role" in the reconstruction of Iraq. But what does "vital" mean?

US soldiers in Baghdad, standing next to a mural depicting Saddam Hussein
UN could legitimise a new government without backing the invasion
It does not mean that the UN will be running Iraq.

But it does mean that the UN will have more than a humanitarian role, important as that will be. It will have a supporting political role. Tony Blair has got that concession at least out of George Bush. That at least is the hope. It still has to be agreed by the UN itself, of course.

Alternative French plan

And already the French President Jacques Chirac has put forward his own and different proposals. The UN, he said, should "take on the political, economic, humanitarian and administrative reconstruction of Iraq."

So much for an agreed way forward.

Both Mr Bush and Mr Blair tried to play down the UN as an issue which divided them.

Mr Blair called it "diplomatic wrangling", and he and President Bush stressed the long term aim of having Iraqis run their own government.

UN sponsorship

The British have proposed that the UN should give its approval to a three-stage process under which Iraq will move from essentially military rule through an interim Iraqi administration to a representative government.

It appears that the United States is now ready to listen, though the exact parameters of the UN functions remain to be decided.

Drawing a line under the past

The idea is that a line could be drawn under the past and that those countries which opposed the war - like France, Germany and Russia - could get back on board.

UN sponsorship would legitimise a government in Iraq without legitimising the invasion.

But those countries will have their own ideas, which they are to discuss at a meeting in St Petersburg on Saturday.

Stage one: Military rule

US and UK military will be in charge of security and in overall command.

George Bush and Tony Blair
Bush now seems ready to listen to British proposals

The US Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), under retired US General Jay Garner, will run utilities, infrastructure, medical services, etc.

General Garner will bring in other Americans to help him. But he will also recruit Iraqis who have not been tainted by senior association with the Baath party.

This stage could last for several months.

Stage two: Interim Iraqi Administration (IIA)

This is where the British Government wants the UN to take a leading role by organising a conference in Baghdad which would appoint members of the IIA.

There will have to be general agreement on who is to take the leadership role in the IIA - otherwise there will be friction

The IIA would not have executive powers but would gradually assume responsibility for more and more day to day functions of government.

The importance of getting the UN involved is that otherwise the IIA might be seen as the creature of American policy.

The Pentagon has already flown its favourite exile, Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, to Central Iraq with a band of followers.

One of his senior aides has gone to Qatar to liaise with American commanders.

Ahmed Chalabi
Ahmed Chalabi - America's favourite Iraqi exile has been flown to Iraq

But other figures are already emerging and there will have to be general agreement on who is to take the leadership role in the IIA. Otherwise there will be friction.

UN approval would also open the door to international aid from the European Union, the World Bank and other organisations.

A new Security Council resolution would have to be passed - Mr Bush signed up to this in his statement with Mr Blair.

One part of the resolution would affirm Iraq's territorial unity which would please other Arab states and Turkey.

Stage three: Representative government

It could be a year or so before this is organised. And the phrase "representative government" will have to be defined.

Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan is showing signs of wanting to help

It does not simply mean elections and nothing but elections.

Iraq will need a constitution, a rule of law - which means appointing a proper police force and judges - freedom of speech and the media.

That will take time to assemble.

UN role

The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is already showing signs of wanting to help, despite his disapproval of the war.

He has appointed as his representative for Iraq a Pakistani diplomat and long time UN civil servant, Rafeeuddin Ahmed.

Mr Annan himself is visiting Security Council member countries this week - France, Germany, Britain and Russia - to try to get the principles and details sorted out as much as possible at this stage.

The big problem for the US and UK is that there is no ready made government-in exile for Iraq, as there was for so many countries after World War II.

This is being made up as it goes along.

The BBC's Richard Watson
"There are moves by the coalition to set up new police forces across Iraq"

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