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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 19:35 GMT 20:35 UK
Analysis: UN grapples with Iraq

By Mike Wooldridge
BBC world affairs correspondent

The United Nations is now grappling with a reworked Security Council resolution intended to provide more international backing for restoring stability to Iraq.

If the situation has remained difficult in Iraq itself, it has also been no easy task to find a consensus on how to move the country towards a new democratic future.

The US Government, which sponsored the new resolution, originally hoped it would be agreed by the time President George W Bush spoke in the General Assembly on 23 September.

Site of Baghdad UN blast
The UN in Baghdad has been targeted twice
That was clearly optimistic, given the differences among key Security Council members over Iraq strategy - in particular the way power should be handed over to Iraqis and how long it should take for that to happen.

Now the aim is to have the redrafted resolution adopted in time for the Iraq donors conference, scheduled to take place in Madrid near the end of this month.

Iraq redux

So once again United Nations business is dominated by the question of how to handle Iraq, just as it was at this time last year as the Security Council struggled then with the issue of how to step up the pressure on Saddam Hussein's regime.

No real surprise in that, of course.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Annan admitted that Iraq was a challenge for the UN
As the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, says in his latest report on the work of the organisation: "The war in Iraq brought to the fore a host of questions of principle and practice that challenge the United Nations and the international community as a whole".

It was only just over a month ago that the Security Council adopted the resolution that set the framework for the UN's current involvement on the ground.

It created the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and welcomed the establishment of the governing council of Iraqis who help the coalition run the country.

Four days after the resolution was passed the UN Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieria de Mello, and more than twenty others were killed in a bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad - the first of two.

Since the war there had been a vigorous debate about the the UN's role in an Iraq ultimately ruled over by the US-led coalition and the bombings have inevitably proved to be a watershed.

US push

In early September the US set about trying to win support for the new Security Council resolution.

It produced a draft text that reaffirmed that the UN should play a "vital" role in Iraq.

It went beyond the "welcome" for the Iraqi Governing Council in the August resolution.

This time the Security Council would "endorse" it as the principal body of the interim Iraqi administration, proposing that it set out a timetable for drawing up a new constitution and holding elections.

French President Jacques Chirac
Chirac: Transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis is essential
The UN would approve the deployment of a multinational force in Iraq led by the US.

And it would encourage more international investment and aid.

It became clear that the biggest problem revolved around the transfer of sovereignty.

President Jacques Chirac of France, arch critic of the war, suggested that there should first be a symbolic handing over of sovereignty to the Iraqi Governing Council and then the gradual ceding of real power over a period of six to nine months.

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, did then say Iraqi leaders should draw up the new constitution within six months.

But, in itself, that did not address the concerns of those countries that wanted a bigger political role for the UN as well as an end date for the occupation of Iraq.

And there was a further practical complication over the UN's position as it pulled out more of its international staff.

New draft

Then came the new US draft, laying stress on the temporary nature of the Coalition Provisional Authority but still with no specific timetable for the handover of power.

And on that basis it is still not clear how far the Americans can succeed in winning the degree of support they want in order to demonstrate that the resolution represents the will of the international community.

France has said it will not use its veto this time
Mr Annan told reporters he was still studying the text but it was not going in the direction he had recommended.

He believes it would be preferable if a provisional Iraqi government were in place before a constitution is agreed and elections are held - the Afghanistan model.

Even if it is the French who still appear to need the most convincing of the powers that can block resolutions, France has said it will not use its veto this time.

But that does not mean the bargaining is any less tough.


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